Monday, March 31, 2014

U.S., Russia Talks Fail to Ease Crisis

At WSJ, "Kerry's Talks With Russia's Lavrov Fail to Ease Ukraine Crisis: Kerry Pressed his Russian Counterpart to Pull Troops Back From the Ukrainian Border":

PARIS—Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart appeared to make no major advances Sunday in a four-hour meeting aimed at easing the standoff over Ukraine, raising the specter of a prolonged crisis that threatens to bring broader instability to Europe.

Mr. Kerry, in remarks after the negotiations, said he received no assurances from the Kremlin that it would pull back thousands of Russian troops amassed on Ukraine's eastern border.

The chief U.S. diplomat and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also didn't appear to reach any major common ground on discussions aimed at revamping Ukraine's political system. Mr. Kerry said his counterpart pledged Russia's desire to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine but offered no specifics.

"Any real progress in Ukraine must include a pullback of the very large Russian force that is currently amassing along Ukraine's border," Mr. Kerry said. "Tonight I raised with the foreign minister our strong concern about these forces."

Mr. Kerry said he would bring back to Washington proposals laid out by Mr. Lavrov on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After the talks, Mr. Lavrov told Russian television that although the U.S. and Russia disagreed on the causes of the Ukrainian crisis, they agreed to "seek common ground to resolve the situation in Ukraine."

The Russian diplomat said he and Mr. Kerry had discussed "constitutional reform, in favor of which we stand together with the Americans."

Sunday's meeting was viewed by the U.S. as a test of whether Russia's surprise overture on Friday, when Mr. Putin called President Barack Obama to discuss a diplomatic resolution, was a genuine effort to start talks or a delaying tactic before another assault on Ukraine's borders. The outcome appeared to leave Russian intentions no less clear...