Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting in Sochi on May 14, 2019. Picture: PAVEL GOLOVKIN / POOL / AFP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting in Sochi on May 14, 2019. Picture: PAVEL GOLOVKIN / POOL / AFP

Sochi — Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday it was time for Moscow and Washington to put aside years of mistrust and find a way to work together constructively.

Pompeo is in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks with his Russian counterpart, and later on Tuesday was to hold consultations with President Vladimir Putin.

Ties between the two countries have been poisoned by allegations — denied by Moscow — that Russia tried to influence the results of the 2016 US presidential election, and by differences over Venezuela, Iran, Syria and Ukraine.

“We see that there are suspicions and prejudices,” Lavrov told Pompeo at the start of their talks. “This hinders both your security and our security and causes concern around the world. We think it is time to build a new and more constructive matrix for our relations,” he said.

“We are ready to do that if our US colleagues are ready to reciprocate. Let’s try, and see what happens.”

Pompeo’s visit represents the first high-level contact between Moscow and Washington since US special counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report examining the nature of Russia’s role in the 2016 US presidential election.

His inquiry had cast a pall over US-Russian relations, and Russian officials had expressed hope that Washington would have more scope to build friendlier relations with Moscow once it was out of the way.

Responding to Lavrov’s opening remarks, Pompeo said: “I’m here today because President Trump is committed to improving this relationship. We have differences and each country will protect its own interests, look out for its own interests of its people.

“But it’s not destined that we’re adversaries on all issues and I hope that we can find places where we have a set of overlapping interests and continue to build out strong relationships, at least on those particular issues,” Pompeo said.

He identified counter-terrorism and combating nuclear proliferation as two areas where Moscow and Washington could find common ground.

Reuters