Top US and Russian diplomats did not make much progress in Ukraine talks on Friday, but agreed to continue talks to try to resolve a crisis that has fueled fears of a military conflict.
After the Geneva talks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of a “swift and severe” response if Russia invades Ukraine after gathering troops near its border.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was still awaiting a written response to its demands for security guarantees.
But both said they were open to more dialogue, and Blinken saw reason to hope that mutual security concerns could be addressed.
“Based on the conversations we had – the extensive talks – last week and today here in Geneva, I think there are reasons and ways to address some of the mutual concerns we have about security,” Blinken said.
He described the talks as “frank and substantive” and said Russia now faced a choice.
“He can choose the path of diplomacy, which can lead to peace and security, or the path that will lead only to conflict, grave consequences and international condemnation,” Blinken told reporters, adding that diplomacy would be preferable.
“We were clear: if any Russian military force crosses the Ukrainian border, that is a renewed invasion. It will be met with a swift, stern and 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 helpful, he said Moscow will understand whether the talks are on track once it receives a written response to its broad security demands from the United States.
Russia’s demands include a halt to the eastward expansion of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and a pledge that Ukraine will never be able to join the Western military alliance.
“I cannot say whether we are on the right or wrong path. We will understand this when we receive the American response on paper to all points of our proposal,” Lavrov said.
Tatiana Stanovaya, head of political analysis firm R.Politik, commented on Telegram: “This is partly a trap, of course, because any written response of this kind will be used to discredit the US negotiating position.”
Blinken said he looks forward to sharing with Russia “our concerns and ideas in more detail and in writing next week” and said he and Lavrov “agreed on further discussions after that.”
Russia and the United States may hold another meeting next month to discuss Moscow’s demands for security guarantees, Russian news agency RIA said, citing a source in the Russian delegation.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves”
Lavrov said Russia has its own concerns, “not about made-up threats, but real facts that no one hides – bombing Ukraine with weapons, sending hundreds of Western military instructors.”
Asked about the possibility of a summit between President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden, Lavrov was cautious.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, President Putin is always ready for contacts with President Biden, of course these contacts need to be seriously prepared,” he said.
Blinken said of another possible Biden-Putin meeting: “If we conclude, and the Russians conclude, that the best way to resolve things is through a new conversation between them, then we are certainly prepared for that.”
The two presidents met in Geneva in June last year.
Washington’s hopes of building a united front in opposition to Moscow were complicated by Biden’s comments at a news conference on Wednesday, in which he suggested that allies may be divided on how to respond to a “small incursion” by Russia into Russia. Ukraine.
Biden and his administration tried to push back on that on Thursday, with the president saying that “if there are any mounted Russian units crossing the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.”
Ahead of Friday’s meeting, Blinken toured Europe to try to bolster US allies’ commitments to hit Russia with economic sanctions if it proceeds with an invasion of Ukraine.
In Kiev on Wednesday, Blinken assured Ukraine of US support. Blinken, before meeting German, French and British officials in Berlin on Thursday, said Putin could order an imminent invasion.
Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba by phone on Friday and briefed him on his meetings with European and Russian officials, the State Department said in a statement, reaffirming Washington’s support for Kiev.
Blinken’s deputy Wendy Sherman and Lavrov’s deputy Sergei Ryabkov also met in Geneva last week, without any progress.
Reference: CNN Brasil