Top diplomats from the United States and Russia sparred politely in Iceland during their first face-to-face encounter of the Biden administration, which came as ties between the nations have deteriorated sharply in recent months. 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 in Reykjavik on Wednesday, the AP reports. "We seek a predictable, stable relationship with Russia," Blinken told Lavrov. 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 ... if Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, and our allies, we’ll respond," he said.
The meeting took place as the Biden administration notified Congress of new sanctions on Russia over a controversial European pipeline. The administration hit eight Russian companies and vessels with penalties for their involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, while sparing two German entities from similar penalties, which would have a more significant effect on the project. Lavrov told Russian reporters after the meeting that the talks had been "constructive" and that Russia has proposed starting a new and broad strategic dialogue. Neither side offered any update on progress toward a Biden-Putin summit, saying only that discussions about its logistics continue.
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