Washington / Reykjavik / Moscow (dpa) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov stated at their first meeting that both countries were willing to improve their broken relationships.
At the beginning of the conversation in Reykjavik (Iceland) on Thursday evening, Blinken said the US wanted a “predictable, stable relationship” with Moscow. Lavrov described the conversation, which lasted an hour and 40 minutes longer than planned, as “useful and constructive”. Nevertheless, both sides – politely but firmly – have made it clear how much they have crossed many issues.
Blinken therefore expressed concern about the health of the imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexej Navalny, who is regaining his strength after a hunger strike in the prison camp. The US State Department announced that in addition to the “repression” of the opposition, the bilateral talks also covered Russian military marches in and near Ukraine. Blinken emphasized US President Joe Biden’s determination to defend the interests of the US and its allies against actions by Russia.
According to both parties, the meeting was about a possible normalization of the proportions. “The conversation seemed constructive to me,” said Lavrov. There are many breakpoints; it is not easy to get rid of the ‘unhealthy situation’. “I felt the direction in which Antony Blinken and his team wanted to do that. It shouldn’t be us. Lavrov cited the goal of renewing the broken diplomatic relations.
The American side also expressed benevolence after the meeting. The conversation was “fair” but “respectful,” with no polemic and no surprises, said a senior US government representative. The exchange was “effective” – and “off to a good start”.
At the beginning of the conversation, Blinken said in front of the cameras: “It is no secret that we have our differences.” Lavrov even said, “Our assessments of the international situation vary widely, we have completely different approaches to the tasks we need to resolve to normalize the situation.”
Nevertheless, there are international issues in which both parties have similar interests and there are opportunities for cooperation. Lavrov cited as examples the controversial nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, but also the situation in Afghanistan. In addition, Russia and the US, as the two greatest nuclear powers, must work together to achieve strategic stability in the world. Proposals must now be made to the presidents of both countries on arms control.
After the meeting, it was initially unclear whether there would actually be a summit between Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin and US President Biden in a European country in June. The Kremlin has not yet approved Biden’s proposal and has justified its reluctance to conduct an ongoing analysis of the situation.
The Kremlin saw the first meeting between Blinken and Lavrov as a “positive signal” for a possible presidential summit. “Obviously, the process is not going to be easy. In fact, many problems have converged, ”said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Lavrov will now inform Putin of the results of the meeting. Then Putin will decide for himself whether to accept Biden’s proposal for a summit. The meeting of ministers undoubtedly helped to reach a decision.
Just in time for the meeting, the US government announced that it would waive sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG, the operating company of the Baltic Sea pipeline of the same name – which welcomed Russia. Peskow said this has not only prevented further problems for the Russian-German gas pipeline. The US had also admitted that the punitive measures were not in its best interest. Both parties differ in the assessment of the step. The US decision must be understood as a political signal, especially towards Germany.
Relations between the United States and Russia have long been tense. Shortly after Biden’s proposal for the April summit, the US expelled ten Russian diplomats and imposed new sanctions in retaliation for hacker attacks attributed to Moscow and for meddling in US elections. Russia responded by expelling ten US diplomats and imposing sanctions on the US. In addition, the Moscow government issued a travel ban for senior US government officials.
However, it is noticeable that despite the many issues at stake, both sides adopted an emphatically diplomatic tone. unlike Blink’s first meeting with the other competing superpower: China. His meeting with a high-ranking Beijing delegation in March had turned into an unusual battle of words in front of the camera, in which both sides covered each other with verbal attacks and serious accusations. The Americans refrained from such a public confrontation during the meeting with Moscow.
Ministers met on the margins of a meeting of the Arctic Council, which will be chaired by Russia for the next two years. At the ministerial meeting, Iceland’s previous Council President officially handed over leadership to the Russians.