January 27, 2009 / 3:32 PM / 10 years ago

Obama, Medvedev agree on need to improve ties

President Barack Obama speaks after Timothy Geithner is sworn in as Treasury Secretary at the Treasury Department in Washington, January 26, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, agreed on the need to stop the “drift” in U.S.-Russia relations in a telephone call on Monday, the White House said on Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Tuesday he expected the two leaders to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in London in April.

“President Obama and President Medvedev spoke about the importance of stopping the drift in U.S.-Russia relations and building a serious agenda for their bilateral relationship,” the White House statement said.

The statement underscored the White House’s recognition that relations between the two countries had deteriorated in recent years under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, and former Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A statement from the Kremlin press service on the same phone call said the two sides had agreed to do “everything in their power to restore Russia-American relations to their full potential.”

Russian-U.S. relations have been strained over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, a move Russia strongly opposes, and over Russia’s brief war with the North Caucus republic of Georgia, a close U.S. ally.

“The presidents agreed that, as they were both new leaders from a post-Cold War generation they have a unique opportunity to establish a fundamentally different kind of relationship between the two countries,” the White House said.

It said Obama had also stressed the importance of cooperation between the world’s major economic powers to tackle global economic turmoil.

Reporting by Ross Colvin; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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