Newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry may visit Russia shortly as Moscow and Washington are trying to mend their strained relations.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Mr. Kerry’s visit after meeting U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden at an international conference in Munich on Saturday.
“Biden confirmed to me that Kerry has received my invitation to visit Moscow and expects to make use of it soon,” Mr. Lavrov told Russian media aboard his plane from Munich to Moscow.
Mr. Lavrov also said U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon plans to visit Moscow shortly, “probably this month”.
The visits will give the two sides an opportunity to ease tensions caused in recent months by disagreements over human rights and Syria.
The U.S. enraged the Kremlin by passing a law in December that bars U.S. entry to Russians blamed for the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other human rights abuses. Russia retaliated imposing similar sanctions against Americans accused of violating human rights and banning the adoption of Russian children by Americans.
The two countries have also been at odds over the conflict in Syria, with Russia strongly critical of U.S. support for armed rebels and Washington blaming Moscow for backing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
However, the meeting between Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Biden, the first high-level contact between Russia and the U.S. after President Barack Obama’s re-election, appeared to have revived the spirit of the ‘reset’, which the U.S. Vice-President had also proclaimed in Munich four years ago.
Emerging from the meeting Mr. Lavrov said the two sides had agreed that differences and problems should be resolved on the basis of equality and respect for mutual interests.
“There is an understanding on both sides, that along with differences that need to be addressed to find mutually acceptable solutions, we have very many common interests in the field of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, organised crime,” Russia’s top diplomat said. “We also need to cooperate more closely in Afghanistan as NATO is leaving…”
“We have a shared understanding with Washington that it’s very difficult to get anything done without Russia and the United States on an overwhelming majority of international problems,” Mr. Lavrov further noted.
The U.S. Vice-President also urged cooperation between Washington and Moscow.
“The Vice-President emphasised the importance of the two countries working together in the interest of international peace and security, including in Syria,” the White House said in a statement on the Biden-Lavrov meeting.
While both Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Biden in their speeches at the Munich conference highlighted sharp differences on Syria, as both leaders at their separate meetings with Syrian National Coalition (SNC) leader Ahmed Moaz Alkhatib, they praised his offer to engage in talks with the Syrian government.
According to Mr. Biden’s office he “commended” Mr. Alkhatib’s initiative, while Mr. Lavrov “expressed interest in regular contacts” with the Syrian opposition and invited Mr. Alkhatib to visit Moscow.