A prominent U.S. lawmaker has said during a visit to Moscow that the United States needs to have more dialogue with Russia and keep communication lines open.
"My goal in coming to Russia is to say that we want to have open lines of communication," Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky) told journalists after a meeting with members of the International Affairs Committee in Russia's upper chamber of parliament, the Federation Council, on August 6.
"It does not mean that we have no differences, it does not mean that we will not, on occasion, have discussions back and forth where we disagree. But discussions are incredibly important, diplomacy is important," said Paul, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a former presidential candidate.
Paul was one of only two senators who voted against a major Russia sanctions bill in 2017 and has praised President Donald Trump's efforts to engage with Russia, vocally defending Trump when the president faced widespread criticism from U.S. lawmakers over his conduct at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Helsinki.
During the meeting at the Federation Council, Paul said that the United States and Russia "need to have dialogue," adding that the former Cold War foes are "in close proximity" in many hotspots around the world, including in Syria.
"I think it would be a very big mistake not to have open lines of communication," Paul said.
"The world is a complicated place," he said.
Trump has repeatedly said he wants to improve relations with Russia, which are severely strained. His summit with Putin in Helsinki was their first full-fledged meeting since Trump took office in January 2017.
Konstantin Kosachyov, the chairman of the International Affairs Committee, said at the meeting with Paul that efforts to mend ties are hampered by sanctions the United States has imposed in response to Russia's interference in Ukraine, its alleged meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, and other actions.
"The sanctions definitely pose an obstacle to these relations, but they do not stop these relations in any way," Kosachyov said.
Russian media also quoted Paul as saying that he invited members of the committee to Washington for talks.
Paul and the Russian lawmakers discussed a possible joint meeting by the end of this year between the Senate Committee members and their Russian counterparts from the Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, Kosachyov was quoted as saying by state-run news agency TASS.
"Of course, Mr. Paul is yet to discuss these ideas with his colleagues after returning to Washington," Kosachyov said.
The information could not be immediately confirmed by U.S. officials.