Talks in Geneva saw diplomats discuss Moscow’s demands to limit the expansion of NATO
Washington has pledged to respond in writing to Moscow’s proposed security guarantees, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced following talks with his American counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Speaking to journalists shortly after the meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday, Lavrov said the US side had set out its initial view on the two draft treaties developed by the Kremlin. “Blinken told me he was satisfied with the exchange we had and that it will help him, he assured us, to issue a written response next week.” However, Lavrov added, at present “their reaction is only preliminary – we were warned about this.”
Asked whether Russia intended to publish the response, the top diplomat said the question was one for Blinken and the US side. Moscow initially made its proposals and intentions to hold talks public.
Lavrov also added that demands for Ukraine not to be admitted to NATO were not a sign Russia was seeking to assert control over a “sphere of influence,” but an effort to prevent the bloc “sowing the seeds” of conflict in Eastern Europe.
In addition, Lavrov said the US side had undertaken to help implement the Minsk Agreements, designed to put an end to the conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine. Moscow has previously accused Kiev of disregarding the pact, inked in 2014, by refusing to hold talks with separatist leaders of the two self-proclaimed autonomous ‘republics’ in Donetsk and Lugansk. Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky has claimed that the breakaway regions are Russian proxies and insisted he should meet with President Vladimir Putin instead.
Ahead of the discussions, Blinken cautioned that the chances of making significant progress were slim. “I do not expect any breakthrough,” he said, arguing that the meeting would be a chance to “see what conclusions Russia has drawn from these diplomatic contacts.”
The talks are the latest in a series of diplomatic meetings held after Russia developed two separate proposals, one addressed to Washington and the other to NATO, which it argues would reduce the risk of conflict on the European continent.
Among the proposals is a demand that the US-led military bloc issue written guarantees that it will not expand further toward Russia’s borders, effectively blocking Ukraine from future membership. In addition, Moscow insists that NATO should refrain from military activity on the territory of the former Warsaw Pact states that joined after 1997, after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The bloc’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has criticized Moscow’s requests, saying that the country has no veto on Ukraine’s efforts to join up, and insisted it will not accept a “two-tier” membership system that prevents it from deploying troops in certain states.
Russia insists the measures are necessary to avoid conflict, with President Vladimir Putin saying that the West “cheated” Russia by giving assurances in the 1990s that the bloc would not expand into the space left by the fall of the Soviet Union. Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Baltic states were subsequently admitted.
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