The top diplomats from Russia and the European Union struggled Monday to overcome deep rifts that have plunged ties to a post-Cold War low despite calling for closer cooperation.
In her first official visit to Russia, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini insisted that cooperation between the sides was "not frozen" but said that progress was hampered by profound disagreements on subjects including Ukraine and Syria.
"It would be quite surreal to consider ourselves as strategic partners and to have respective sanctions," Mogherini said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"We share the interest to make our relations better," she added.
The EU imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and support for east Ukrainian rebels.
Moscow responded with an embargo on agricultural products from the West.
Mogherini said the EU's sanctions against Russia were "not an objective in themselves" but were meant to help end the crisis in Ukraine, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives since it erupted in 2014.
Lavrov meanwhile said the two sides had reiterated the need to fulfil the stalled European-brokered Minsk peace agreements to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
He also called for a "thorough, quick and transparent" investigation after an American monitor with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was killed Sunday when a patrol vehicle hit a landmine in the rebel-held east.