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Russia, US officials meet for 2+2 in Washington
August 9, 2013, 11:07 am


Russia and the US agreed to convene an international Geneva conference on Syria during a meeting earlier this year [AP]

Defence ministers and foreign policy chiefs from Russia and the United States will discuss bilateral and international issues on Friday amid growing tensions between the two sides.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu will hold a crucial “two-plus-two” meet in Washington with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry.

US President Barack Obama recently cancelled a visit to Moscow in reaction to Russia’s decision to grant temporary political asylum to NSA former contractor Edward Snowden.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said talks would focus on missile defence, arms control, security of outer space programmes, nuclear non-proliferation, military cooperation and the crises in Syria and Afghanistan.

“Missile defence remains one of the serious irritants in bilateral relations. We expect the American party to be disposed towards serious and constructive talks for the purposes of an outcome of mutually acceptable solutions on this topic,” said a MFA statement.

The two sides stand divided on approaches to resolving the Syrian crisis.

“As to Syria, we intend to assess progress in the implementation of the agreements reached earlier about holding the international conference on the political settlement of the internal Syrian conflict (“Geneva-2”),” the statement says.

The international Geneva conference on Syria is the joint initiative of Russia and the US agreed upon at a meeting between Lavrov and Kerry in May.

“What is happening there makes this conference even more relevant. The longer we protract holding the conference, the more civilian casualties this country will see,” Lavrov said citing the killing of 450 kurds in the Northern regions of Syria in July.

The talks will also touch upon the tense situation in Afghanistan which will potentially see a withdrawal of international forces next year.

Prior to the “two-plus-two” meet in Washington, Lavrov visited New York to hold talks with the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “to compare the approaches to the resolution of the most acute international problems.”

By Daria Chernyshova in Moscow, Russia, with inputs from Agencies