Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday meets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the highest-level talks between the rival powers in almost a year as they see if they can make headway on a raft of disagreements from Venezuela to Iran to arms control. President Donald Trump withdrew the USA from the deal in May 2018.
Pompeo did not specifically mention election meddling in his brief reply to Putin, although he did say the Trump administration would "protect our nation's interest".
Iranian leaders announced last week that they would scale back their cooperation under the agreement, in essence forcing Europe to choose between defying Washington or kissing the nuclear deal goodbye.
"We see that there are suspicions and prejudices", Lavrov told Pompeo at the start of their talks.
Pompeo said Trump had made clear he wanted the to try to keep the Russian Federation relationship "on the high ground".
Brian Hook, US special envoy for Iran, said Pompeo made the unscheduled stop in Brussels because "Iran is an escalating threat and this seemed like a timely visit on his way to Sochi".
The visit came on a day that the Saudi Foreign Ministry said two of its oil tankers were attacked and damaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
"We are looking for Iran to behave like a normal country", Pompeo said, pointing in part to Tehran's backing of Huthi rebels in Yemen who are under attack from U.S. ally Saudi Arabia.
Asked if he himself believed there was the possibility of an Iranian role, Hook said: "Don't have any comment".
"Everything will depend on what our U.S. partners want", he added. He hoped to build on the EU´s uneasiness over Iran´s recent announcement of reduced compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in response to the US unilateral withdrawal a year ago, and to supply additional arguments to bolster the USA case against Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greet each other prior to their talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, May 14, 2019.
Brian Hook, the USA special envoy for Iran, insisted the Islamic republic was itself an "escalating threat". But he said it was clear Europe and the United States were "going about it in different ways ... taking different courses".
"My meetings in Russian Federation will highlight a number of important topics", Pompeo tweeted on Tuesday.
"We don't see any corporate demand for it", Hook said.
"We agree on much more than we disagree. But in light of the very credible threat-reporting that we were seeing, it was important that we do this", Hook said. "We are very concerned about Iran's - a lot of the multiple threat streams that have been reported over the last three or four days". I hope we can find a way forward that ends the humanitarian and political crisis that is happening.
"On Venezuela, we have disagreement", Pompeo said.
At least one, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said he feared that unintentional escalation from the United States and Iran could spark a conflict - an unusually bold statement that appeared to assign equal culpability to Washington and Tehran.
The European Union's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, who held her own meeting with Pompeo, stressed the need for dialogue as "the only and the best way to address differences and avoid escalation" in the region.
Pompeo sought to alleviate some of the concern but made clear the USA would respond to attacks.