MOSCOW — Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for more than four hours on Tuesday, marking a high-profile attempt to ease tensions between Russia and the West as relations have deteriorated to their worst level since the Cold War.

The talks in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi yielded no major breakthroughs on a variety of shared concerns, including Ukraine, a nuclear deal with Iran and the Islamic State’s gains in Syria. Kerry praised Putin afterward for having agreed to meet in the first place.

Kerry was the most senior U.S. official to visit Russia since the crisis in Ukraine started last year. But both sides appeared pleased with Tuesday’s talks, which included four additional hours of discussion between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“We rarely get to speak as honestly as we did today,” Kerry said. “This was an important visit at an important time. We didn’t come here with an expectation that we would be able to define a specific path forward with respect to one crisis or another.”

Kerry had not visited Russia since May 2013, as Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden effectively put an end to high-level contacts. Russia’s subsequent annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine put relations in a deep freeze.


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