Top US, Russia diplomats spar firmly but politely in Iceland

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Top diplomats from the United States and Russia sparred politely in Iceland during their first face-to-face encounter, which came as ties between the nations have deteriorated sharply in recent months.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russia’s longtime Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke frankly but calmly of their differences as they held talks on the sidelines of an Arctic Council meeting Wednesday in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, a city with deep history in U.S.-Russian relations.

“We seek a predictable, stable relationship with Russia,” Blinken told Lavrov, echoing comments made by President Joe Biden, who has proposed a summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin next month. “We think that’s good for our people, good for Russian people and indeed good for the world.”

“It’s also no secret that we have our differences and when it comes to those differences, as President Biden has also shared with President Putin, if Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, and our allies, we’ll respond — and President Biden has demonstrated that in both word and deed, not for purposes of escalation, not to seek out conflict, but to defend our interests,” Blinken said.

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