Precise control of gene expression underpins normal development. This relies on mechanisms that enable communication between gene promoters and other regulatory elements. In embryonic stem cells (ESCs), the cyclin-dependent kinase module Mediator complex (CKM-Mediator) has been reported to physically link gene regulatory elements to enable gene expression and also prime genes for induction during differentiation. Here, we show that CKM-Mediator contributes little to three-dimensional genome organization in ESCs, but it has a specific and essential role in controlling interactions between inactive gene regulatory elements bound by Polycomb repressive complexes (PRCs). These interactions are established by the canonical PRC1 (cPRC1) complex but rely on CKM-Mediator, which facilitates binding of cPRC1 to its target sites. Importantly, through separation-of-function experiments, we reveal that this collaboration between CKM-Mediator and cPRC1 in creating long-range interactions does not function to prime genes for induction during differentiation. Instead, we discover that priming relies on an interaction-independent mechanism whereby the CKM supports core Mediator engagement with gene promoters during differentiation to enable gene activation.