Russia holds out olive branch to U.S., but chides West
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia held out an olive branch to the United States on Wednesday by calling for an improvement in ties, but chided Washington over "odious" human rights legislation and denounced Western policy on Syria.
Setting out Russia's policy agenda for 2013 at an annual news conference, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made clear that improving relations with Washington was part of Moscow's vision for strengthening its influence on the world stage.
"On issues where we have disagreements, we can look for ways to prevent these problems making the whole atmosphere worse and stopping us cooperating," he said, reiterating a hope that U.S. President Barack Obama would accept an invitation for a summit with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this year.
However, he signaled no change in Russia's stance on Syria, where Moscow is President Bashar al-Assad's main protector.
Criticizing the West on several fronts, he made clear Russia would be resolute in its defense of national interests.
"Russian-U.S. relations are going through far from the best of times," said Lavrov, a 62-year-old veteran diplomat who has won a reputation as a tough negotiator since becoming foreign minister in 2004.
He described U.S. legislation enacted last month to punish Russians suspected of human rights abuses as odious, and criticized a U.S. judge's recent ruling in a dispute over a collection of Jewish writings held in Russia.
But he made clear he wanted to draw a line under the dispute over the Magnitsky Act, to which Russia responded by approving similar legislation against U.S. citizens and banning Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Continued...