US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov have opened a high-level Washington meeting by affirming their "shared interests." The talks are aimed at repairing bilateral relations.
Kerry opened the talks in the US capital on Friday amid a backdrop of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow. The two countries have been at odds over how best to deal with the ongoing civil war in Syria, a US missile defense system, and now the latest issue to fan the flames - the status of Edward Snowden.
Russia's recent decision to grant the US whistle-blower asylum prompted US President Barack Obama to cancel a planned meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin next month.
Kerry admitted that the US and Russia have had "challenging moments" but said he hoped for an honest exchange of ideas.
"The relationship between the United States and Russia is, needless to say, a very important relationship and it is marked by both shared interests and at times colliding and conflicting interests," he said.
"We both know that diplomacy is like hockey and sometimes results in occasional collisions," Kerry added. "So we are candid, very candid about the areas in which we agree but also the areas in which we disagree."
Joining in the talks are US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Kerry said that while their two countries may disagree on how best to resolve Syria's civil war - Russia has backed the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while the US has armed Syria's rebel fighters - stopping the bloodshed was critical.
"Both of us and our countries agree that to avoid institutional collapse and descent into chaos, the ultimate answer is a negotiated political solution," Kerry said.
Washington and Moscow have also been at loggerheads over a planned US missile defense system in Europe. Russia says the move is an effort to shift the balance of power in the region towards the US.
The most high-profile bone of contention, however, has been Snowden, the man responsible for revealing worldwide US internet and telephone spying programs.
"Of course, we have disagreements. We'll continue discussing matters on which we disagree calmly and candidly," Lavrov said. "We need to work as grown-ups. And this is what we do. And we hope that this will be reciprocal."
dr/pfd (AFP, AP, Reuters)