Kerry visits Russia to push Putin on Ukraine crisis
SOCHI - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS PhotoU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began high stakes talks in the Russian resort of Sochi on May 12 aimed at pushing President Vladimir Putin to fully implement a shaky Ukraine ceasefire.
Kerry met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov ahead of talks with Putin in the Black Sea city at what a top U.S. official said was “a critical moment” for Ukraine, with Washington looking to ensure the “next steps in concrete implementation” of the truce deal.
The top U.S. diplomat also wanted to discuss the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya as well as brief Putin on the state of the negotiations seeking to reach a potentially historic deal on curtailing Iran’s nuclear program.
It is the highest-level trip by a U.S. official to Russia since Kerry visited Moscow in May 2013.
Kerry and Lavrov laid wreaths at a World War II memorial to mark 70 years since the victory over Nazi Germany ahead of their meeting.
Ties between Moscow and Washington collapsed when Russia seized the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in early 2014 and buttressed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
But after a year of tensions, signs are emerging that both Russia and the West may be ready to seek detente.
“We have a lot of business we could do together if there is interest,” the senior State Department official told reporters travelling on Kerry’s plane.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the visit by Kerry as “extremely positive” and said that his talks with Putin would cover a wide range of topics, from U.S.-Russian bilateral ties to other international “hot-button issues.”
“Through dialogue we can search for a path towards some sort of normalization of ties and closer coordination in solving international problems,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian wires.
“But this is only possible through dialogue.”
“We have been very, very clear publicly that if Minsk is fully implemented... including restoration of the sovereign border, there will be an opportunity to roll back sanctions,” the U.S. official said.
But “we’ve also made clear that if there are more serious violations that the pressure will increase.”
Kerry wanted to “get down to some of the efforts on the ground to implement Minsk, make it absolutely clear that that’s what we want to see and we want to be helpful.”
His visit comes hot on the heels of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led European efforts to broker a peace deal in Ukraine and who said in Moscow on May 10 that there was still no genuine ceasefire.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on May 11 that Russia and the pro-Moscow rebels could now launch new attacks “with very little warning” after a sustained military build-up.
The crisis in Ukraine is likely to be top of the agenda at NATO foreign ministers talks to be held May 13 in Antalya, Turkey, where Kerry will fly to after his meetings in Sochi.