Blinken, Lavrov agree to meet Friday in Geneva to reduce tensions

Washington, Jan 18 (EFE).- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday agreed with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to meet later this week in Geneva to try and reduce tensions over the Kremlin’s activities vis-a-vis Ukraine and to continue with diplomatic efforts to avert a military conflict there.

The two men spoke by telephone and agreed that the meetings held last week between Russia, the US and Washington’s allies over the Ukraine crisis were worthwhile, the State Department said in a statement.

Blinken reiterated to Lavrov the “unshakable” US commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and emphasized that any discussion about security in Europe must include Washington’s NATO allies and European partners, including Kiev.

A top State Department official said in a telephone press conference that during the two official’s phone conversation they agreed that it would be “useful” to meet in person on Friday, taking advantage of Blinken’s trip later this week to Kiev and Berlin, and so they decided to get together in Geneva for further talks.

Blinken will travel on Tuesday on Ukraine, where on Wednesday he will meet with President Volodymyr Zelenski and with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleva to discuss the Russian threat.

One day later, the top US diplomat will travel to Berlin to meet with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, with whom he will discuss the options currently on the table to respond to a hypothetical Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

Following the meeting with Baerbock, there will be another get together including top diplomatic officials from the US, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.

The unidentified State Department official said that the Friday meeting between Blinken and Lavrov is “an opportunity” for the US to share its great concern with Russia about the situation in Ukraine and to find common ground with the Kremlin to continue moving along a diplomatic route to resolving the crisis.

Last week, a series of meetings were held in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna by Russian and US representatives, as well as officials from NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

None of those diplomatic contacts provided significant results, although the US and its allies believe that there is a significant risk that Russia will invade Ukraine, having moved at least 100,000 troops, along with tanks, aircraft and other equipment, into position near its border with that country in recent weeks.

On Friday, Washington accused Moscow of trying to engineer a “false flag” military operation – that is to say, a fake attack by Ukraine – on Russian troops in the region to create a pretext for invading or making a military incursion into Ukraine.

The Kremlin, for its part, confirmed the call between Lavrov and Blinken in a statement, saying that it came at Washington’s request and adding that Lavrov urged Blinken not to replicate speculation about alleged impending “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, but rather to force the authorities in Kiev to “fully comply with the Minsk agreements.”



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