WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday set up two rounds of talks in coming months in a bid to move past a fight over human rights and seek common ground on issues such as Iran, Syria and North Korea.
The announcement of an Obama-Putin summit in early September, added to plans for a meeting at a G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June, suggested the two leaders want to revive the momentum from a reset in relations despite tensions over the so-called Magnitsky List.
The list was named for a whistleblowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky whose death in a Moscow jail in 2009 has soured relations.
The Obama administration last week named 18 Russians subject to visa bans and asset freezes under the Magnitsky Act passed by the US Congress late last year. Russia responded by naming 18 Americans barred from Russia under retaliatory legislation signed by Putin.
“One way to resolve this is for the Russian government to take action against, investigate into, take action on those individuals responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s death,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
The White House National Security Council announced plans for the two sets of talks in a statement that emerged from talks in Moscow between Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, and Putin and Russian officials.
During his sessions, Donilon handed over a letter from Obama to Putin, Carney said without divulging
“We understand we have differences, and we are very clear and transparent and candid about those differences and we engage with Russian officials on those differences,” Carney said. “But we also have areas where we can cooperate.”
The United States is pressing Russia to use its influence to help reduce tensions with North Korea. Washington and Moscow are also at odds over the civil war in Syria. The two governments also have worked on the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear programme.