United States and Russian officials has opened talks in Washington DC, two days after US President Barack Obama cancelled a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel hosted Russian counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu for about five hours of strategic and security talks.

"USA and Russia must find ways to work around their sharp differences and agree on approaches to Syria and other global trouble spots", Kerry said on Friday. 

Relations have been strained recently over their differing policy on Syria, and  Moscow's decision to grant asylum to the US spy programme whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"We will discuss these differences today, for certain, but this meeting remains important above and beyond the collisions and the moments of disagreement," said Kerry.

"Both of us and our countries agree that to avoid institutional collapse and descent into chaos, the ultimate answer is a negotiated political solution,'' he added in reference to Syria.

Lavrov echod Kerry in stressing the need to get Syria's government and opposition talking in Geneva.

Obama's cancellation this week of a summit in Moscow over Putin's decision to give Snowden asylum put to rest any notion of a much-vaunted "reset" of ties with Moscow sought by the US.

US officials expect no breakthroughs on Friday, but they say the very decision to go ahead with the talks despite the current frictions is significant in itself.

Source: Agencies