Blinken, Lavrov stress dialogue despite 'serious differences' in first meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde (not pictured) at the Harpa Concert Hall, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit, in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS

REYKJAVIK, May 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov both stressed their two countries have differences but should work together on some issues, as they began talks in Iceland on Wednesday night.

In opening remarks in front of reporters, Blinken said it was "no secret that we have our differences" and that Washington would respond to aggressive acts by Russia, but that the world would be safer if the two countries' leaders worked together.

Lavrov said Russia and the United States have "serious differences" but have to cooperate "in spheres where our interests collide."

The meeting marked the first high-level, in-person talks between the Biden administration and a Russian counterpart, ahead of a possible presidential summit in June in an attempt to improve the dire relations between the former Cold War foes.

Ties have been fraught since March when U.S. President Joe Biden - not long into his presidency - said he regarded President Vladimir Putin as a "killer", prompting Moscow to recall its U.S. ambassador for consultations. The envoy still has not returned. read more

Russia was ready to sort out issues left over from the previous U.S. administration, Lavrov added, referring to Donald Trump's presidency.

Blinken said Biden wanted "a predictable, stable relationship with Russia" and said the two countries could work together on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, combating climate change, dealing with Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs, and the conflict in Afghanistan.

"We think that's good for our people, good for the Russian people and indeed good for the world," Blinken said.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Leslie Adler

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