MOSCOW -- As U.S. tensions with Iran simmer, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo was in Russia on Tuesday to discuss a crowded agenda of deep differences with Russian President Vladimir Putin and possibly arrange a future summit with President Donald Trump.
Pompeo began the visit with a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. In opening remarks, Pompeo said he hoped the talks would allow the two sides to "build upon areas that the two countries share in common," such as the fight against terrorism, arms control and common interests in regional conflicts.
"I hope this good-faith effort on the part of our two nations ... will stabilize the relationship and put it back on a trajectory that I think would be good for not only each of our two countries and people, but for the world as well," Pompeo said.
Pompeo was making his first visit to Russia since becoming secretary of State. It is also the first time a senior U.S. official has been to Russia since the scathing report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III detailed extensive meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential election aimed at benefiting Trump.
The Kremlin has vehemently denied the accusations. Putin and other senior Russian officials have blamed a Washington-led campaign of "Russophobia" for deteriorating relations between Moscow and the West.
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, Pompeo seemed to minimize the report's findings, saying he might discuss meddling with Russian authorities but that the phenomenon was nothing new.
Pompeo was scheduled to meet Putin in the early evening, after a working lunch with the Russian foreign minister.
"We'll certainly talk about that," Pompeo said of election interference in a television interview on the eve of his travel to Russia from Brussels, where he lobbied European leaders on Iran. But, he added, "This has been a long-standing challenge where the Soviet Union and then Russia have tried to impact Western democracies, not just ours but others as well."
The U.S. and Russia diverge dramatically on numerous issues, including Iran's nuclear aspirations and the U.S. attempt to overthrow Venezuela's leftist government led by Nicolas Maduro. But Pompeo has said he hopes Washington and Moscow can find agreement on fighting global terrorism and on resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, where both nations have been dragged into costly wars in recent decades.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin's agenda for the Pompeo meeting includes bilateral relations, strategic stability and disarmament issues. The Russian president also planned to raise discussions on regional crises in Iran, Syria and Venezuela, as well as the Korean peninsula denuclearization, Peskov told Russian media.