Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Before Their Meeting
Remarks to the Press
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center
May 19, 2021
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good evening. I'm pleased to be meeting with Sergey for the first time in my capacity as the Secretary of State. And as President Biden shared with President Putin, we seek a predictable, stable relationship with Russia. We think that's good for our people, good for the Russian people, and, indeed, good for the world. And we find ourselves here today, actually, for the Arctic Council meetings, where Russia and the United States have cooperated well in the past, and we look forward and hope certainly to do that going forward, especially as you assume the chairmanship of the council.
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, our allies, we'll respond. And President Biden has demonstrated that in both word and deed â€“ not for purposes of escalation, not to seek conflict, but to defend our interests.
But having said that, there are many areas where our interests intersect and overlap and we believe that we can work together and, indeed, build on those interests. Whether it is dealing with COVID-19 and the pandemic, combatting climate change, dealing with the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, Afghanistan, there are many areas of intersecting interests.
It's our view that if the leaders of Russia and the United States can work together cooperatively, our people, the world can be a safer and more secure place, and that's what we seek.
Sergey, welcome. It's good to see you.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Tony. And right off the bat, thank you for your proposal to call the meeting here. It is indeed important for our relations. And as our presidents want us, we need to decide what to do next with our relations. Indeed, everyone understands when a routine meeting between ministers of foreign affairs of two Arctic Council states on the margins of this ministerial meeting between Russia and the U.S. becomes such a sensation, such an event, where everybody can see why. And our task that we have at hand is a continuation of the telephone conversations between our presidents to decide how we are going to move forward with our relations.
We greatly diverge when it comes to our assessment of the international situation and our approaches towards how we should resolve it. Our position is clear. We are prepared to discuss all issues on the table with the understanding that our discussions will be honest, factual, and with mutual respect. Laws of diplomacy recommend mutuality, especially when it comes to response to any kind of hostile actions. Our task is to make the best of the diplomatic opportunities we have, and we are glad to see that you are demonstrating such (inaudible). You can always rely on us to respond mutually to such intentions.
As you've said, the status of relations between Moscow and Washington greatly influences the international situation in general. As far as I understand â€“ and our presidents during their telephone conversations have confirmed it â€“ they agree that we need to cooperate on issues where we have similar views and when we can achieve positive outcomes, for example, in resolving conflicts and on other issues such as strategic stability. And even with such topics as the Korean Peninsula, the Iran nuclear issue, Afghanistan, all those topics where our representatives are already interacting with each other, and I hope that today we'll have a review of all those issues. And we'll be ready to deal with this great workload that we have from the previous administration regarding the missions of Russia in the U.S. and the missions of the U.S. in Russia. And if we would not continue with the global diplomatic issues, we will undermine the very basis of diplomacy, which is building bridges and improving relations.
Thank you once again for this meeting. I hope for a productive meeting.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you all.
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