Blinken and Lavrov agree to work together despite 'differences'

US secretary of state and Russian foreign minister meet face to face in Iceland

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) gesture as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit. / AFP / POOL / SAUL LOEB
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday called for co-operation between Moscow and Washington during the first high-level talks between the two countries since Joe Biden became US president.

Meeting on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting in Iceland, Mr Blinken told Mr Lavrov that Washington sought co-operation with Russia but would respond to any aggression.

"If Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies, we will respond," he said.

"We seek a predictable, stable relationship with Russia. We think that's good for our people, good for the Russian people and indeed good for the world."

Mr Lavrov said Moscow was ready to discuss all issues with Washington but called for honesty and mutual trust.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said Russia and the United States have "serious differences" but have to cooperate "in spheres where our interests collide".

Senior US State Department officials said there were no breakthroughs in the meeting, but described it as a "good start" to work on relations between the two countries in "weeks, months and years to come".

"Our task is to determine how we will build relations further," he said.

Since taking over the White House in January, Mr Biden has taken a strong line against Russia, going as far as describing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "killer" – in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Donald Trump, who was accused of complacency towards the Russian president.

But it seems the two sides are seeking to appease each other.

Mr Lavrov and Mr Blinken are expected to discuss Washington's proposal to organise a summit between the Russian and US leaders, possibly in June.