U.S. raises possibility of Kerry-Lavrov meeting this week

by Reuters
Monday, 10 March 2014 18:02 GMT

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WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) - The United States held out the possibility on Monday that the U.S. and Russian foreign ministers could meet this week about Ukraine but said Washington needed to know Moscow would engage seriously on a diplomatic solution.

Russia's bloodless seizure of the Crimea region of Ukraine has brought U.S.-Russian relations to one of their lowest points since the Cold War, with the United States searching for a way to keep Russia from annexing Crimea, where it has a naval base.

The State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday Washington wanted Moscow to cease its military advances in Ukraine, stop its drive to annex Crimea and end "provocative steps."

"The United States needs to see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on the diplomatic proposals we have made to facilitate direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia and to use international mechanisms like a contact group to deescalate the conflict," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a written statement.

"We are still awaiting a Russian response to the concrete questions that Secretary Kerry sent Foreign Minister Lavrov on Saturday in this regard," the statement added. "Kerry made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov that he would welcome further discussions focused on how to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine if and when we see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on these proposals."

Separately, Psaki told reporters it was conceivable Kerry might meet Lavrov this week but he first wanted to ensure Russia would engage seriously on U.S. diplomatic proposals.

"There is always a possibility," Psaki told reporters. "He (Kerry) never shies away from hopping on a plane or having an in-person meeting, but we want to ensure that that is undertaken with seriousness on the other end as well." (Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Susan Heavey)

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