Blinken set to meet with Russia's Lavrov in Iceland

Blinken set to meet with Russia's Lavrov in Iceland
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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUS calls on North Korea to halt 'unlawful and destabilizing' missile launches Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Pacific tsunami threat recedes, volcano ash hinders response MORE will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday on the sidelines of a summit in Iceland.

It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the top diplomats amid a host of tensions between the U.S. and Russia. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced the meeting in a statement Tuesday night, saying it “will provide an opportunity to test the proposition of whether we can achieve a relationship with Moscow that is more stable and predictable.” 

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The meeting comes ahead of plans for an expected summit between President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe hidden blessing of China's and Russia's hostility Former president returns to Ukraine ahead of court hearing McCaul says US withdrawal from Afghanistan has emboldened Russia on Ukraine MORE reportedly to take place in a third-party country sometime this summer.

Blinken and Lavrov are in Reykjavik for the 12th ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council and where Russia is set to take over the chairmanship of the council for the next two years.

Blinken on Wednesday said he is concerned about “some of the increased military activities in the Arctic” and called out Russia for advancing “unlawful maritime claims,” during a press briefing alongside Icelandic Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson.

But the secretary said he was “hopeful” that the Arctic Council will be used as a vehicle “for sustaining and even deepening peaceful cooperation in the region.”

Biden and other U.S. officials have said that they want the U.S. to have a predictable and stable relationship with Russia, but the administration has also imposed sanctions on Moscow. 

Tensions are high over Russia's interference in the 2020 election; the massive SolarWinds hack; condemnation over reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the use of chemical weapons against Putin critic Alexei Navalny and his ongoing imprisonment and crackdown on supporters.

A criminal cyberattack against the Colonial Pipeline — the largest oil pipeline in the U.S. — was determined to originate in Russia but is not attributed to the government. 

The U.S. and Russia are also keen to cooperate on critical issues such as nuclear nonproliferation, extending the New START nuclear arms treaty for five years; efforts by the U.S. to rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran; and addressing the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.