Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry engaged in four hour talks on Sunday from Paris about how to de-escalate tension over Ukraine which was arranged following a telephone conversation on Friday between Russian President Vladmir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama.
After the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych in February and the sudden Russian annexation of Crimea in March, the recent buildup of tens of thousands of Russian troops along the Russian-Ukrainian border has created a political flashpoint and rekindled the worst of fears about a new East-West confrontation.
Secretary of State John Kerry said in a post-meeting press conference that the United States and Russia have different historical perspectives about the recent events that occurred in Ukraine but noted that both sides still remain committed to find a diplomatic solution.
“The U.S. and Russia have differences of opinion about the events that led to this crisis, but both of us recognize the importance of finding a diplomatic solution and of simultaneously meeting the needs of the Ukrainian people – and that we agreed on tonight” Kerry said.
“Both sides made suggestions on ways to deescalate the security and political situation in and around Ukraine. We also agreed to work with the Ukrainian Government and the people to implement the steps that they are taking to assure the following priorities: the rights of national minorities; language rights; demobilization and disarmament of irregular forces and provocateurs; an inclusive constitutional reform process, and free and fair elections monitored by the international community” Kerry added.
Kerry emphasized that the United States still considers Russia’s actions in Crimea to be illegal, which includes a troop incursion into a sovereign country still recognized by the international community, and added later that progress in Ukraine should be measured by a reduction of troops along the Russian-Ukrainian border.
“In a frank conversation this evening with Foreign Minister Lavrov, I made clear that the United States still considers the Russian actions to be illegal and illegitimate, and Russians’ actions over the past several weeks have placed it at odds, obviously, with the rule of law and the international community, and we still believe on the wrong side of history” Kerry explained.
“But any real progress in Ukraine must include a pullback of the very large Russian force that is currently massing along Ukraine’s borders. And tonight I raised with the foreign minister our strong concern about these forces. We believe that these forces are creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine” Kerry added later.
Kerry concluded by saying that the U.S. and international community stand in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and Ukraine’s territorial integrity while upholding the rights of the people of Ukraine to determine their own future.
“We will continue to support the people of Ukraine’s right to choose their own future. And I will say that at least tonight Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated that Russia wants to respect the right of Ukrainians to make that choice” Kerry said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered to talk to representatives of Ukraine’s interim government under certain guidelines even though Moscow doesn’t fully recognize Kiev’s new government.
Lavrov proposed a diplomatic solution to Ukraine that includes the U.S. and its Western allies giving autonomy for ethnic Russian regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, a move that Ukrainian leaders in Kiev have sharply rejected.
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