GENEVA (Reuters) – The top U.S. and Russian diplomats made no major breakthrough at talks on Ukraine on Friday but agreed to keep talking to try to resolve a crisis that has stoked fears of a military conflict. After the talks in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of a “swift, severe” response […]
U.S. and Russia agree to keep talking after meeting on Ukraine (AUDIO)
GENEVA (Reuters) – The top U.S. and Russian diplomats made no major breakthrough at talks on Ukraine on Friday but agreed to keep talking to try to resolve a crisis that has stoked fears of a military conflict.
After the talks in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of a “swift, severe” response if Russia invades Ukraine after massing troops near its border and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was still waiting for a written response to demands for security guarantees.
But both said they were open to further dialogue, and Blinken saw grounds to hope that mutual security concerns could be addressed.
“Based on the conversations we’ve had — the extensive conversations — over the past week and today here in Geneva I think there are grounds for and a means to address some of the mutual concerns that we have about security,” Blinken said.
He described the talks as “frank and substantive” and told reporters that Russia now faced a choice.
“It can choose the path of diplomacy that can lead to peace and security, or the path that will lead only to conflict, severe consequences and international condemnation,” Blinken said, adding that diplomacy would be preferable.
“We’ve been clear – if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, that’s a renewed invasion. It will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.”
Lavrov said the ball was in Washington’s court.
Describing the meeting as open and useful, he said Moscow would understand whether talks were on the right track once it had received a written response to its sweeping security demands from the United States.
“I can’t tell you if we’re on the right track or the wrong track. We’ll understand this when we receive the American response on paper to all the points in our proposal,” Lavrov said.
Russia’s demands include a halt to NATO’s eastward expansion and a pledge that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the Western military alliance.
Blinken said he expected to share with Russia “our concerns and ideas in more detail and in writing next week” and said he and Lavrov had “agreed to further discussions after that”.
Russia and the United States could hold another meeting next month to discuss Moscow’s demands for security guarantees, Russia’s RIA news agency quoted a source in the Russian delegation as saying.
‘LET’S NOT GET AHEAD OF OURSELVES’
Lavrov said Russia had worries of its own, “not about invented threats, but real facts that no one hides – pumping Ukraine with weapons, sending hundreds of western military instructors”.
Asked about the possibility of a summit between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, Lavrov was circumspect.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, President Putin is always ready for contacts with President Biden, it’s clear these contacts need to be seriously prepared,” he said.
Washington’s hopes of building a united front of opposition to Moscow were complicated by U.S. President Joe Biden’s comments at a news conference on Wednesday in which he suggested that allies might be divided on how to respond to a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine.
Before Friday’s meeting, Blinken swung through Europe to try to shore up U.S. allies’ commitments to hit Russia with economic sanctions if it goes ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.
In Kyiv on Wednesday, Blinken assured Ukraine of U.S. support. Blinken, before meeting German, French and British officials in Berlin on Thursday, said Russian President Vladimir Putin could order an invasion imminently.
Blinken’s deputy, Wendy Sherman, and Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, also met in Geneva last week, without a breakthrough.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Additional reporting by Alexander Ermochenko in Donetsk, Mark Trevelyan in London, and by Vladimir Soldatkin and Tom Balmforth in Moscow; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Michael Shields, Mary Milliken, Grant McCool and Timothy Heritage)