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Kremlin says Russia, US need intensive dialog to resolve 'deep differences'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The combo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and his American counterpart Joe Biden.

Moscow says Russian President Vladimir Putin and his new American counterpart Joe Biden have confirmed that deep differences between the two countries need to be resolved in an intensive dialog.

In an interview with Rossiya-1 TV channel on Sunday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments after the two leaders made their first contact on January 26 in a telephone conversation, which was “business-like and pragmatic,” TASS news agency reported.

Both leaders “clearly confirmed that there are very deep differences but agreed that the presence of these differences should not mean the lack of dialog and on the contrary, these differences demand a rather intensive dialog between the two countries,” Peskov said.

He further pointed to Ukraine as one of these differences, saying that after the phone call, the Kremlin press service used the term “inter-Ukrainian settlement” whereas White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki described it as “Russia’s ongoing aggression” against Ukraine.

“This is the position of the United States of America, which we strongly oppose," Peskov stressed, adding, “This is one of the conceptual differences, which are on the agenda of our relations now.”

The Kremlin spokesman further said that Putin would keep explaining the position, which Moscow holds on the Ukrainian crisis, to the other party.

Relations between Moscow and the US and the rest of Europe have particularly deteriorated since 2014 when the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum where more than 90 percent of participants voted in favor of the move. The West brands the reunification as the annexation of Ukrainian land by Russia.

Siding with Ukraine, the European Union has followed Washington's lead in leveling several rounds of sanctions against Moscow.

Furthermore, armed confrontations between Kiev and pro-Russia forces, which have so far claimed thousands of lives, erupted in eastern parts of Ukraine, where a wave of protests overthrew a democratically-elected pro-Russia government and replaced it with a pro-West administration.

The majority in those areas refused to endorse the new administration, and have turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk - collectively known as the Donbass - into self-proclaimed republics. Kiev and its Western allies, including the US, accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow, however, denies the allegations.

Peskov also said that Moscow initiated the 35-minute-long phone conversation “literally a few days” after Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Putin and Biden also discussed pressing bilateral and international issues, including cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and other areas, namely trade and economy, Peskov said.

He added that the leaders particularly expressed satisfaction over the exchange of diplomatic notes on extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the two nuclear powers.

Earlier in the week, Putin signed a law extending the New START. Former US president Donald Trump had refused to extend it, which was due to expire on February 5.

New START is the last remaining nonproliferation deal between Russia and the US, after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), another key arms control treaty, expired in August 2019.

Peskov further said on Sunday that the new US administration had shown “political will” as it agreed to extend the New START.

“We see that the new administration of President Biden showed this political will. Moreover, they even outlined a proposal for five years,” Peskov stressed, saying, “This is a very good proposal that certainly received Russia’s support immediately.”

New START was inked between Washington and Moscow under then US and Russian presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010.

The treaty allows the two states to have no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. It also envisages a strict compliance verification process.

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