Blinken, Lavrov spoke briefly on margins of G20 meeting - U.S. official

By Simon Lewis

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke for less than 10 minutes on the margins of the G20 meeting in New Delhi on Thursday, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

In what is believed to be the two top diplomats' first one-on-one conversation in person since before Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Blinken reiterated that Washington is prepared to support Ukraine's defense as long as it takes, the official said.

Lavrov did not mention the meeting during a news conference he gave after Thursday's G20 foreign ministers' meeting.

Russia's foreign ministry confirmed Lavrov and Blinken spoke "on the move," but did not hold negotiations or a meeting, Russian news agencies reported on Thursday.

The U.S. official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said Blinken also called for Russia to reverse its decision to suspend participation in the New START nuclear treaty and to release detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan.

"The secretary saw the purpose of this was to deliver these three direct messages, which we see as advancing our interests," the official said.

"We always remain hopeful that the Russians will reverse their decision and be prepared to engage in a diplomatic process that can lead to a just and durable peace, but I wouldn't say that coming out of this encounter there was any expectation that things will change in the near term."

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones and Sharon Singleton)