US & Canada

John Kerry: US and Russia must talk despite 'collisions'

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Media captionUS Secretary of State John Kerry said the relationship between the US and Russia had experienced some ''challenging'' moments

The US and Russia must find progress on critical issues despite "collisions and moments of disagreement", US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

At a meeting in Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the two nations had laid a "solid foundation" for future co-operation.

The conference comes days after US President Barack Obama cancelled a summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

He cited Russia's decision to grant asylum to the fugitive Edward Snowden.

'Challenging moments'

Also at the meeting in Washington were Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and his US counterpart, Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel.

Mr Kerry acknowledged the growing tension between Russia and the US, aggravated this month by Russia's decision to grant asylum for a year to Edward Snowden, the American former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of US surveillance and intelligence programmes to the news media.

"It's no secret that we have experienced some challenging moments, and obviously not just over the Snowden case," Mr Kerry said, flanked by Mr Lavrov and Mr Shoigu.

"We will discuss these differences today, for certain. But this meeting remains important above and beyond the collisions and the moments of disagreement."

In particular, Mr Kerry cited the need for progress on missile defence, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Syria.

'Future work'

On Syria, Mr Kerry acknowledged that he and Mr Lavrov were at odds over whether President Bashar al-Assad and his forces or the Syrian rebels were responsible for the violence, nor did they agree "on some of the ways forward".

Image caption The divisions are most clearly shown over Syria

Relations between both countries have been strained over Syria, with Russia refusing to back international calls for President Assad to step down.

But Mr Kerry said the two countries agreed on the need to stave off collapse and chaos in the country, and that the answer lay in a negotiated political solution.

He also called for a second round of Geneva talks on the Syrian conflict.

Mr Lavrov said the two countries' diplomats had "laid very solid foundation for future work", but indicated proposals for further co-operation could not be agreed until Mr Obama and Mr Putin met in person.

"At least we in Russia were prepared to table our proposals to the two presidents, and we will do so once their summit meeting takes place," Mr Lavrov said.

'Mutual interests'

While Mr Lavrov agreed on the need for a second round of Syria talks in Geneva, he stressed the need for both Syrian forces and the opposition to "join efforts to fight terrorists and force them away from Syria".

"I'm convinced that in the current-day reality, especially in light of the fact and assessments we've been hearing lately, this is indeed our top priority," he said.

Mr Hagel said that on most of the issues up for discussion in Washington, "our interests... are mutual interests".

And he called on the two countries "to address these clearly, directly with each other, honestly, and to find the common denominators where we can build high ground to move forward to help resolve these great issues of our time".

Mr Shoigu called for greater military-to-military transparency, and pledged to invite US officials to observe Russian military exercises.

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