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China Daily Global / 2021-05 / 21 / Page006

Moscow, Washington seek cooperation amid tensions

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-21 00:00

HELSINKI, Finland-Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met for the first time on Wednesday, expressing willingness to cooperate but also admitted "serious differences" amid tense relations between the two countries.

Meeting with his counterpart on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, Lavrov said Moscow and Washington have to decide on their further cooperation despite "serious differences" in a series of issues.

"We have serious differences in the assessment of the international situation. We have serious differences in the approaches to the tasks which have to be solved for its normalization," Lavrov said.

"Our position is very simple," the Russian diplomat said. "We are ready to discuss all the issues without exception, but under the perception that the discussion will be honest, with the facts on the table, and of course on the basis of mutual respect."

'Predictable relationship'

For his part, Blinken said the administration of US President Joe Biden seeks "a predictable, stable relationship" with Russia, noting that Washington wants to work with Russia on some areas of mutual interests, including the fight against the pandemic, climate change, as well as nuclear issues related to Iran and the Korean Peninsula.

At the beginning of his speech though, Blinken said it was "no secret that we have our differences" and Washington would respond "if Russia acts aggressively".

Relations between Russia and the United States have been worsening in recent months. The two sides have clashed on issues such as Ukraine, cybersecurity, human rights, and alleged election interference by Russia in the US.

Since taking over the White House in January, Biden has increased pressure on the Kremlin. His labeling of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "killer" met with fierce criticism in Moscow. Russia recalled its ambassador for consultations and warned ties were on the brink of outright collapse.

Wednesday's meeting, the first high-level, in-person discussion between the Biden administration and a Russian counterpart, lasted one hour and 45 minutes, longer than the expected one hour.

Biden proposed in April holding a summit with Putin in Europe this summer, and in early May expressed the hope that he will meet Putin during his visit to Europe in June.

It is expected the two top diplomats will prepare for the summit and may further compare notes on some specific issues.

Xinhua - Agencies



US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left), greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with an elbow bump on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Wednesday. SAUL LOEB/REUTERS



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