Tue, 22 Jun 2021

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday had a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and discussed their meeting during the Arctic Council Ministerial held in Iceland on May 20.

The top U.S. and Russian diplomats discussed the upcoming Arctic Council Ministerial meeting, where they will meet next week, and the potential to cooperate during Russia's subsequent Arctic Council Chairmanship, said a State Department statement.

"Secretary Blinken reiterated President Biden's resolve to protect U.S. citizens and act firmly in defense of U.S. interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies," it added.

Blinken called on Moscow to release two former U.S. Marines Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, who are serving prison sentences in Russia. He also provided Lavrov with an overview of U.S. policy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, according to the statement.

The upcoming meeting between Blinken and Lavrov in Iceland would be the highest-level in-person talks between Washington and Moscow since President Joe Biden took office.

Biden said last week that he expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the trip to Europe in June, when he will attend the Group of Seven Summit in Britain and then the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

Lavrov said on Tuesday during his visit to Azerbaijan that Russia welcomes the initiative by the United States for holding a summit in June.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have been adversarial in recent years. The two were bitterly divided over Ukraine, human rights, cybersecurity issues, and they mutually accused the other of domestic political interference.

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