US, Russia promise to ease Ukraine tensions in high-stakes talks

Published January 22, 2022
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before their meeting on Friday.—Reuters
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before their meeting on Friday.—Reuters

GENEVA: Washington and Moscow’s top diplomats agreed on Friday to keep working to ease tensions over Ukraine, with the United States promising a written response to Russian security demands and not ruling out a presidential meeting.

As fears grow that Russia could invade its pro-Western neighbour, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed warnings of severe Western reprisals as he met for 90 minutes Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva. But Blinken described the high-stakes talks as “frank” and not “polemical”, with Lavrov also voicing hope for a lowering of the temperature between the former Cold War foes.

Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, denying it plans to invade but demanding security guarantees, including a permanent ban on the country joining Nato.

Moscow has massed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, but denies it plans to invade the country

Blinken said that Washington would share written ideas with Russia next week in which it would also make clear its own positions.

“We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are now on a clear path in terms of understanding each other’s concerns and each other’s positions,” Blinken told reporters.

“We anticipate that we will be able to share with Russia our concerns and ideas in more detail in writing next week and we agreed to further discussions after that,” he added.

Speaking separately to reporters, Lavrov also said he was promised the written responses next week. “Antony Blinken agreed that we need to have a reasonable dialogue, and I hope emotions will decrease,” he said.

“I cannot say whether or not we are on the right track. We will know when we get an answer.”

He added that another meeting could be held between the two, but that it was “premature” to start talking about another summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, who met in Geneva last June.

Blinken, however, did not rule out fresh talks between the presidents after Biden twice warned Putin by telephone of consequences for any Ukraine invasion.

“If we conclude (and) the Russians conclude that the best way to resolve things is through a further conversation between them, we’re certainly prepared to do that,” Blinken said.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2022

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