Geneva, Jan 21 (EFE).- The United States and Russia on Friday held high-level talks aimed at easing heightened tensions over a military buildup near Russia’s border with Ukraine.
“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,” US secretary of state Antony Blinken told reporters after meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.
Blinken and Lavrov met amid mounting fears that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine as Moscow has amassed 100,000 troops near its border in recent months.
“We’ve been clear that if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, that’s a renewed invasion. It will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the US and our partners and allies,” Blinken warned.
Relations between the West and Moscow have been strained since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 following the ouster of pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and backed separatists in an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Nato allies have warned that another invasion of Ukraine would carry “high prices” and have “serious political and economical consequences for Russia.”
“We agreed that further diplomatic discussion would be the preferable way forward, but it’s really up to Russia to decide which path it will pursue,” Blinken said.
While Lavrov said Moscow was not planning to invade Ukraine, he promised to maintain an open diplomatic discussion over the standoff.
“We talked frankly about it with Tony Blinken and he agreed that we need to conduct a more reasonable dialogue. I hope that emotions will subside, although there are no guarantees,” Lavrov said.
“Russia has never, at any time or at any place, ever threatened the Ukrainian people, through its official representatives,” he added.
Despite not reaching a breakthrough, Blinken said Friday’s talks were “frank and substantive” as well as “useful” for both parties to have a “better understanding” of each other’s positions.
Blinken also told Lavrov he would present Russia with a written response to its demands to withdraw Nato forces from Romania and Bulgaria even though he assured the West remained resolute to rejecting them. EFE