With relations already deteriorating to their Cold War level, a dispute arose between the two countries over the nature of each other’s diplomatic missions, including the number of diplomats who could report to the capital.
“I cannot say that we have made much progress. There is a risk that tensions will escalate further,” the Russian Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying after his talks with US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said, in a press briefing, that Nuland’s meetings with Russian officials were “helpful,” adding that the United States’ position on the appointment of staff to American missions in Russia remains “steadfast.”
He added, “We expect equality in the numbers of staff and reciprocity in the issuance of visas. There must be justice, and there must be flexibility on the Russian side, if we want to reach a fair agreement, and this is exactly what we seek.”
He explained that another round of talks will be held at a lower level and that Washington hopes to find a solution to the conflict, adding: “We need an embassy in Moscow with a sufficient number of staff.”
Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that a proposal by the US Congress to expel 300 Russian diplomats from the United States, if implemented, could lead to the closure of US diplomatic facilities in Russia.
Ryabkov said the dialogue with Nuland was frank and useful, but that each side’s position remained different from that of the other.
The RIA news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying that Moscow does not rule out freezing the work of the Russian and US diplomatic missions, but it wants to avoid this.