Antony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov have their first face to face since the invasion of Ukraine

Antony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have met for the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine. Said conversation was brief and took place at the G20 meeting in New Delhi. Blinken asked to see Lavrov and urged Russia to reverse its decision to suspend its participation in the New START nuclear treaty.

Blinken also warned Lavrov that Washington is not going to drop its support for Ukraine’s defense for as long as it takes. In addition, the Secretary of State also asked him to speed up the procedures for the release of ex-marine Paul Whelan, imprisoned in Moscow since 2018. In total, the conversation did not exceed 10 minutes in length. 

“The purpose of the conversation was to deliver these three direct messages, which we believe further our interests. We always remain hopeful that the Russians will reverse their decision and be prepared to engage in a diplomatic process that can lead to a just and lasting peace,” but I would not say that after this meeting there is any expectation that things will change in the short term,” a US official said.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, said that it was only an informal conversation, but that in no case have they held negotiations. In fact, Lavrov did not even mention the meeting during the press conference he gave after the G20 event.

Blinken asked to contact Lavrov. On the way, as part of the second session of the G20, Sergey Lavrov spoke with him. There were no negotiations or meetings,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova clarified on CNN.

Later, Lavrov assured them that he did not see that Blinken really wanted to talk seriously. At the same time, the Russian delegation in Cambodia assured that the head of the Russian diplomacy “had contacts with everyone who was not hiding.”

unexpected face to face 

If anything was clear from Thursday’s G20 meeting, where foreign ministers are not expected to reach any consensus on Ukraine, it is that the United States and its European allies stood up to Russia and that both sides they accused each other of destabilizing the world.

The United States and its European allies urged the G20 to continue pressing Moscow to end the two-year conflict. “We must continue to call on Russia to end its aggressive war and withdraw from Ukraine for the sake of international peace and economic stability,” Blinken said in remarks released after he addressed the closed-door meeting.

“Unfortunately, this meeting has been marred once again by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine,” added the US Secretary of State. A message that was supported by his counterparts in Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the G20. Reuters

“Unfortunately, one member of the G20 prevents the other 19 from focusing all their efforts on these issues for which the G20 was created,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the meeting.

“I ask you, Mr. Lavrov, to return to the full application of New START  and to resume dialogue with the US Because, as China rightly pointed out in its 12-point plan , the threat of nuclear weapons must be opposed,” he said.

Russia hit back by accusing the West of turning work on the G20 agenda into a “sham” and saying Western delegations wanted to shift the responsibility for their economic failures to Moscow.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a UN conference in Geneva that the United States had tried to “probe the security of Russian strategic facilities declared under the New START Treaty by helping the Kiev regime to carry out armed attacks. against them”.

Lavrov also accused the West of “blatantly burying” the Black Sea grain initiative, which facilitates the export of Ukraine’s agricultural products from its southern ports, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

India, which chairs the bloc this year, has refused to blame Russia for the war and has sought a diplomatic solution while increasing its purchases of Russian oil.

Precisely for these reasons, because the meeting took place through channels that seemed far from understanding, the conversation between Lavrov and Blinken was striking. The latter, moreover, had assured on Wednesday in Uzbekistan that he did not plan to meet with Lavrov at the G20 nor with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang.

“There are no plans to see them at the G20, although I suspect we will surely be together in breakout sessions of one kind or another,” Blinken said in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, from where he traveled to New Delhi. Ultimately, the opposite has happened.