April 1, 2009 / 11:20 AM / 9 years ago

Obama and Medvedev seek thaw in U.S.-Russia ties

LONDON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev began their first face-to-face talks on Wednesday, hitting the restart button on U.S.-Russian ties by trying to move forward on nuclear arms-reduction efforts.

Obama acknowledged before the meeting, on the eve of a G20 economic crisis summit in London, that the two former Cold War foes had some genuine differences but insisted they could still find common ground.

One major concrete achievement widely expected from the Obama-Medvedev encounter was an agreement to start talks on a new treaty limiting long-range nuclear missiles, to replace a pact that expires this year.

But expectations were low for much immediate progress on other contentious issues that have strained relations, including missile defence, NATO expansion and the Russia-Georgia conflict.

The meeting was seen as an early test for Obama, who is making his debut on the world stage with his first major trip abroad since taking office in January.

His predecessor George W. Bush claimed a personal chemistry with former Russian President Vladimir Putin, although that did not stop several policy disputes and a Kremlin clampdown widely seen as rolling back democratic reforms.

The two new presidents have both signalled a more pragmatic, business-like approach.

“There are very real differences between the United States and Russia,” Obama said earlier at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“And I have no interests in papering those over those, but there are also a broad set of common interests that we can pursue. Both countries I believe have an interest in reducing nuclear stockpiles and promoting nuclear non-profileration.”

Reporting by Caren Bohan and Oleg Shchedrov, editing by Matt Spetalnick and Mark Trevelyan

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