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Russia, US say ready for better ties as Putin set to host Pompeo

AFP  |  Sochi (Russia) 

and Washington's top diplomats said Tuesday they were ready to improve ties, ahead of the countries' highest-level talks in nearly a year as of State

Pompeo arrived in the sunny resort of on Tuesday amid a raft of disagreements, from arms control to the raging and crises.

At the start of talks with Russian Sergei Lavrov, and before a planned evening meeting with Putin, Pompeo expressed hope the two rivals could "stabilise the relationship".

"I am here today because (Donald) Trump is committed to improving this relationship," he said.

"We have differences -- each country will protect its own interests and look after its own people -- but it's not that we have to be adversaries on every issue." Lavrov said was ready to open a new page in ties.

"I believe it's time to start building a new, more responsible and constructive model of mutual perception of each other," he said.

"We understand that a lot of suspicions and biases have accumulated on both sides. We win nothing from this." Pompeo's visit to -- his first as -- came as tensions mounted dangerously in the Gulf, with and the engaged in a new war of words over Tehran's nuclear deal.

Pompeo is the highest-ranking US to see Putin since last July, when Trump met him in

Then, Trump stunned the US political establishment by appearing to accept the Russian leader's statement at face value that he did not meddle in the US election, contrary to evaluations.

Pompeo was greeted on arrival by local officials including the of Sochi, with whom he exchanged pleasantries on the tarmac.

Ahead of the negotiations Putin toured a top military flight test centre in and inspected a new nuclear-capable hypersonic missile dubbed Kinzhal (Dagger).

His denied that the display of military muscle was designed to send a message to the Americans.

At a meeting Monday, Putin also tasked his top brass with developing defences against hypersonic weapons.

Peskov slammed what he called Washington's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran, saying it would only drive into a corner.

Pompeo cancelled a stop in on Monday to instead have an unscheduled meeting in with European foreign ministers, who have been uncomfortable with the hawkish direction of the on

The has pulled out of the nuclear deal which was backed by the Europeans, Russia and and slapped sweeping sanctions on in an all-out effort to curb its regional clout.

The United States has recently ramped up the pressure by saying the deployment to the region of an group and nuclear-capable bombers was to counter vaguely described threats from Iran.

The renewed diplomacy between and follows a long-awaited report by

He found that Russia interfered in the 2016 election but that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

Besides Iran, and Moscow are at loggerheads on an array of urgent strategic questions, including Venezuela, the Syrian civil war and the conflict in

The United States has been trying for more than three months to topple Venezuelan Pompeo has repeatedly blamed Russia for giving him a lifeline.

Both the United States and Russia hope to make some progress on arms control. Moscow is seeking a five-year extension of the New START treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits and is set to expire in 2021.

The this year pulled out of another key arms control agreement, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, with NATO allies saying a Russian missile system was in violation. Moscow has denied the claims.

Last year Putin revealed a new generation of "invincible" nuclear weapons and warned of a new arms race if pulled out of weapons treaties.

Trump on Monday announced that he expected a "very fruitful meeting" with Putin at the summit in next month, only for Peskov to deny had requested such a meeting.

The US president's enthusiasm for courting Putin has little support in Washington, even within his own administration.

The administration has kept up a campaign of pressure including sanctions on Russia over alleged election meddling and Moscow's support for armed separatists in

Pompeo, despite his close relationship with Trump, left little doubt where he stood in remarks Saturday in

"We can see now 30 years on, after the end of the Cold War, that the Putin regime slays dissidents in cold blood and invades its neighbours," Pompeo said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 14 2019. 19:21 IST