World Insights: Meeting on Ukraine, NATO between top U.S., Russian diplomats fruitless

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GENEVA, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Apart from agreeing to work to ease tensions over Ukraine and keep in contact, top U.S. and Russian diplomats meeting here on Friday achieved no major breakthrough as expected.


After his talk with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called their conversation "frank and substantive," which he said would allow both sides to carry forward the diplomatic work of resolving their differences.

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

During a separate press conference, Lavrov also described the meeting as open and useful.

"It's good that such a meeting took place. The continuation of dialogue at the ministerial level is an important indicator of the readiness of both sides to continue communication," said Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council.

"Of course, we cannot expect this meeting to radically change something. We saw during the actual meeting that the agendas of the parties diverged. Moreover, one side of the parties has a reason to avoid discussing the other's concerns," Kortunov said.

Both parties said they were open to further dialogue and did not rule out the possibility of the leaders' future summit.

"The most important thing is that this dialogue will continue in the future and it will not end with some monstrous provocation from radicals in Ukraine or somewhere else," said Andrei Bystritsky, chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of Russian think tank Valdai Discussion Club.


Relations between Ukraine and Russia deteriorated recently, with both sides deploying large numbers of military personnel and equipment in their border areas.

The United States, Ukraine, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have accused Russia of having assembled heavy troops near the eastern border of Ukraine, with a possible intention of "invasion."

Russia denied the accusation, saying that Russia has the right to mobilize troops within its borders to defend its territory as NATO's activities constitute a threat to Russia's border security.

Before Friday's meeting, Blinken had swung through Europe to try to shore up U.S. allies' commitments to slap economic sanctions on Russia if Russia "invades" Ukraine. Blinken assured Ukraine of U.S. support in Kiev on Wednesday, and met German, French and British officials in Berlin on Thursday.

Following Friday's meeting, Lavrov called on the West to end the "anti-Russia hysteria" concerning this issue, saying that Russia is not threatening anyone and is not invading any country.

He also said Russia had worries of its own, "not about invented threats, but real facts that no one hides," such as the U.S.-led alliance "pumping Ukraine with weapons and sending hundreds of Western military instructors."

Blinken said that Lavrov repeated to him that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine. But the U.S. secretary of state warned of a "swift, severe" response once Russia does so.


A promised written response from the United States next week to Russia's proposals on security guarantees was part of the outcomes from the meeting.

Last month, Kremlin issued a set of demands to the United States and NATO, including a promise that the military bloc would not expand further eastward, according to U.S. media reports.

Moscow also wants NATO to promise that Ukraine will never be added as a member, that no alliance weapons will be deployed near Russian borders, and that it pulls back its forces from Central and Eastern Europe.

NATO has said that it rebuffed Moscow's chief demand that Ukraine never be admitted.

Blinken said on Friday that Washington will share those ideas in written form with Russia next week.

Lavrov told reporters that Moscow would understand if the 90-minute Geneva talk is "on the right track or not" after receiving the U.S. written response to all of Moscow's proposals. Enditem

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