US, Russia have shared interests despite gaps: Kerry

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov(left). US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) said on Friday that the United States still has "shared interests" with Russia despite a sharp chill in ties. -- PHOTO: AP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov(left). US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) said on Friday that the United States still has "shared interests" with Russia despite a sharp chill in ties. -- PHOTO: AP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that the United States still has "shared interests" with Russia despite a sharp chill in ties.

Opening talks with the Russian defence and foreign ministers, Mr Kerry acknowledged that ties had faced "challenging moments" and said he hoped for a "candid" exchange of views.

"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 told reporters.

Mr Kerry said that he and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, both played hockey.

"We both know that diplomacy is like hockey and sometimes results in occasional collisions," he said.

"So we are candid, very candid about the areas in which we agree but also the areas in which we disagree."

Relations between the former Cold War foes deteriorated after Edward Snowden, an ex-contractor for the US government, flew to Moscow after revealing details of Washington's widespread surveillance on its citizens.

US President Barack Obama cancelled a summit with his counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow to protest Russia's decision to grant asylum to Snowden.

However, the two countries agreed to go ahead with the so-called two-plus-two meeting of foreign and defence ministers that will likely discuss issues including Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

Russia provides key support to Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting a rebellion that is supported by Western countries and Sunni Arab monarchies.