State Secretary Blinken, Russia’s Overseas Minister Lavrov meets in Iceland: NPR

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland on Wednesday. Saul Loeb / AP Hide caption

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland on Wednesday.

Saul Loeb / AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met on Wednesday for the first time since President Joe Biden took office.

The two top diplomats came together on the sidelines of the meetings of the Arctic Council in Reykjavik, Iceland, to create the conditions for a possible future meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The encounter Tensions arose between the two nations with Washington and Moscow, divided on several fronts, including Russia’s military engagement in Ukraine and Syria, the treatment of political activists, and meddling in US elections.

The US imposed several sanctions on Russian authorities and companies in April and expelled Russian diplomats for several alleged measures related to meddling in the 2020 elections. Russia, which denies any wrongdoing, responded in kind and recently made it illegal to hire locals at the US embassy in Moscow.

Blinken recognized these tensions at the Wednesday meeting and struck Lavrov in a stern tone at the opening of the joint press conference between the two heads of state and government.

“It is also no secret that we have our differences. And when it comes to these differences, as President Biden shared with President Putin, we will react if Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies,” said Blinking.

The meeting came just as the US announced its decision not to impose sanctions on Gazprom, the company behind the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in Europe – another sore point between the two countries. The project consists of hundreds of kilometers of pipeline that would connect Russia and Germany. The Foreign Ministry said the project threatened Europe’s energy security.

Blinken said Wednesday the US is striving for “a predictable, stable relationship with Russia” and that there are areas where Washington and Moscow interests overlap.

“Whether it’s COVID-19 and the pandemic, fighting climate change, the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, Afghanistan, there are many areas where interests overlap,” said Blinken.

He added, “We believe that the world can be a safe and secure place when the leaders of Russia and the United States can work cooperatively and that is what we are looking for.”

Lavrov expressed a desire to work with his US counterpart as well, but warned that Moscow would be ready to take revenge if the US moves against Russia.

“Our position is clear. We are ready to discuss any questions on the table with the understanding that our discussions will be honest, factual and with mutual respect,” Lavrov said. “Diplomacy laws recommend reciprocity, especially when it comes to responding to hostile acts of any kind.”

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