U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were expected to hold talks late on Wednesday amid a push to agree a presidential summit despite dire ties between the two countries.
The face-to-face talks between the former Cold War foes on the sidelines of a gathering of 8 foreign ministers in Reykjavik will be the highest level meeting since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January.
Ties have been fraught since March when Biden said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “killer”, prompting Moscow to recall its U.S. ambassador for consultations. The envoy still hasn’t returned.
The United States then imposed sanctions and expelled Russian diplomats over “malign” activities which Moscow denied, prompting Russia to retaliate in kind. It later banned the U.S. embassy from hiring local staff.
Immediate gains from the talks between Lavrov and Blinken are likely to be modest, though they could pave the way for a Biden-Putin summit in June.
On Monday, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper quoted government sources touting Switzerland as the likeliest venue for the summit.
Lavrov and Blinken are set to meet on Wednesday night after the Arctic Council, a regional grouping of 8 nations, has finished meeting, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said.