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Moscow open to better Washington ties

By REN QI in Moscow | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-02-06 09:12

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia on Jan 18, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the United States' new Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the normalization of bilateral relations during their first phone call as their countries' top diplomats on Thursday.

Among the topics were also the issues of strategic stability, the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Syrian conflict and the case of detained Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Lavrov congratulated Blinken on his appointment, expressing readiness for constructive dialogue on a wide range of issues.

As a follow-up to a phone call between presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, the discussion between the two diplomats saw them welcome the prolongation of the New START until 2026, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement referring to an arms control treaty covering nuclear weapons. The extension of the treaty will facilitate an improvement in the general situation for international security and strategic stability, the statement said.

"They have touched upon the matter of ensuring predictability in the sphere of arms control, considering the US pullout from the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty and in the context of prospects of the Treaty on Open Skies," the statement said.

Lavrov reminded Blinken of Moscow's earlier proposals to approve joint Russian-US statements on the impermissibility of nuclear war and noninterference in each other's domestic affairs.

Lavrov confirmed that Russia is open to joint efforts to normalize the entire range of bilateral relations based on mutual trust and a balance of interests. The two men reaffirmed their readiness to mutually address the mounting difficulties each side has faced in operating diplomatic missions in the other's territory, the ministry said in the statement.

Lavrov "gave detailed explanations about the need to respect Russia's legislation and judicial system".

On the Navalny case, the US has repeatedly called for the opposition figure's release since he was arrested in Moscow on Jan 17, upon his return to Russia from Germany. It has also called for Russia to free protesters that have been arrested in demonstrations over the past two weekends.

Russia has called US criticism over the Navalny case an interference in its domestic affairs.

Lavrov "drew Blinken's attention to the problems related to the prosecution in the US of those who protested in connection with the results of the presidential elections, and called for the transparency of the relevant judicial procedures," the ministry statement said in reference to the Nov 3 poll.

In addition to raising Navalny's case, Blinken also called for the release of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, two US citizens imprisoned in Russia following convictions that Washington disputes-Whelan for espionage and Reed for assaulting a police officer.

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