Blinken, Lavrov talk at G20 meeting as US-Russia tensions soar

Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed they spoke ‘on the move’ at a G20 meeting in India but said they did not hold negotiations on Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have met briefly at a meeting of top diplomats from the Group of 20 nations in the first high-level meeting in months between the two countries.

US officials said Blinken and Lavrov chatted on Thursday for roughly 10 minutes on the sidelines of the G-20 conference in New Delhi. The short encounter comes as relations between Washington and Moscow have plummeted while tensions over Russia’s war with Ukraine have soared.

A senior US official said Blinken used the discussion to make three points to Lavrov: that the United States would support Ukraine in the conflict for as long as it takes to bring the war to an end, that Russia should reverse its decision to suspend participation in the New START nuclear treaty and that Moscow should release detained American Paul Whelan.

The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation, said Blinken had “disabused” Lavrov of any idea they might have that US support for Ukraine is wavering.

(Al Jazeera)

The official declined to characterise Lavrov’s response but said Blinken did not get the impression that there would be any change in Russia’s behaviour in the near term.

Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed that Lavrov and Blinken spoke as they were “on the move” at the G20 meeting but did not hold negotiations or a meeting, Russian news agencies reported.

Reporting from New Delhi, Al Jazeera’s Pavni Mittal said that the foreign ministers G20 meeting ended on a “tense and divisive note”.

“There is no joint declaration or statement which was expected given what happened last week at the G20 meeting of finance ministers. This is because of opposing views held by participating nations on the ongoing war in Ukraine. That is the dominant theme at G20 meetings today and has been last week,” said Mittal.

Mittal added that while meeting between the US and Russia was not scheduled, US foreign secretary Antony Blinken and Russian foreign secretary Sergei Lavrov “met for about 10 minutes”.

“The US reiterated its unwavering support for Ukraine. Blinken also urged Lavrov to reverse the suspension of NEW START nuclear arms treaty. Lavrov headed a press conference where he blamed western nations for making ‘emotional statements’ and derailing the G20 agenda. He also came in support of China, which was criticized by the US and Germany for supplying weapons to Russia,” reported Mittal.

This marks the first contact that Blinken and Lavrov have had since July, when they spoke by phone about a US proposal for Russia to release Whelan and formerly detained WNBA star, Brittney Griner.

Griner was later released in a swap for imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, but Whelan remains detained in Russia after being accused of spying.

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