Blinken and Lavrov meet on G-20 sidelines in the first meeting between the top diplomats since the Ukraine war began

NEW DELHI — Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chatted briefly on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in India on Thursday, the first meeting between the top diplomats since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Their encounter involved less than 10 minutes of discussion, a senior State Department official said in a background call with reporters.

Blinken urged Moscow to reverse Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision last month to suspend New START, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. He said that the treaty is in the interests of both the countries, as well as international security, and that the world expects the nations to behave responsibly when it comes to nuclear security, the senior official said.

The treaty was originally set to expire in February 2021, after the Trump administration failed to hammer out an agreement. But President Joe Biden reached an agreement with Putin to extend New START for five years shortly after taking office. Last year, the United States and Russia committed to create a new agreement “to achieve deeper, irreversible, and verifiable reductions in their nuclear arsenals,” according to a joint statement.

Blinken and Lavrov speak briefly at G-20.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks past Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, seated, at the G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting.Olivier Douliery / AP

At a news conference Thursday, Blinken said he urged Russia to return to implementing New START in his meeting with Lavrov.

“Mutual compliance is in the interest of both our countries. It’s also what people around the world expect from us,” Blinken said.

“I told the foreign minister that no matter what else is happening in the world in our relationship, the United States is always ready to engage and act on strategic arms, just as the United States and the Soviet Union did even at the height of the Cold War,” he said.

Blinken also reiterated the need for the Kremlin to release “wrongfully detained” U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, a former Marine who was arrested in Russia in 2018 on espionage charges that he and Washington have denied. Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in jail in 2020.

“The United States has put forward a serious proposal. Moscow should accept it,” Blinken told reporters Thursday. “We’re determined to bring Paul and every other American citizen who is unjustly detained around the world home. We won’t rest until we do.”

In addition, Blinken underscored continued U.S. support for Ukraine, including his proposals for a just and durable peace that respects the United Nations Charter and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the State Department official said. Blinken stressed that Ukraine and the U.S. want Russia’s war to end on that basis, but that a similar determination from Moscow continues to be missing.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023.

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