The US secretary of state and Russian foreign minister met face to face Friday for talks in an effort to ease tensions and prevent conflict over Ukraine amid a flurry of meetings this year.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met at the historic President Wilson Hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva, where many tense negotiations involving world peace have taken place in past decades.
“We are all of us equally committed to the path of diplomacy and dialogue to try to resolve our differences,” said Blinken at the start of the meeting.
“But we’re also committed, if that proves impossible and if Russia decides to pursue aggression against Ukraine to a united, swift and severe response.”
Lavrov said: “During one of your last international trips you said that you do not expect a breakthrough from this meeting.
“We do not expect any breakthrough either from this meeting: we expect responses to our proposals.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made different demands from the West, including that Ukraine is stopped from joining NATO.
Both have scheduled press conferences a couple of hours after the meeting.
Blinken had warned Moscow on Thursday that any military aggression against Ukraine would have severe costs for Russia.
Low expectation from meeting
Diplomats have low expectations of any significant breakthrough on Friday despite a series of security talks that have already been held this year.
Russia has said it does not intend to invade its neighbor Ukraine, which was once part of the Soviet Union.
Blinken had also met the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Britain in Berlin to discuss the latest developments and establish a united approach towards Moscow amid growing fears that a Russian attack against Ukraine could be imminent.
Following the meeting, Blinken said the US and its allies share the same goals and continue to pursue diplomatic efforts to prevent a further Russian invasion or destabilization of Ukraine.
Friday’s talks in Geneva followed discussions on Jan. 10 between the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
After that meeting, Sherman said she had laid down the line on any possible Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
“We’ve made it clear that if Russian further invades Ukraine, there will be significant costs and consequences well beyond what they did in 2014” — referring to the takeover of Crimea — said Sherman after those talks.
Amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West, eyes have once again turned to the Russian-Ukrainian border and frontline territories.
While diplomatic efforts continue to de-escalate the tension, the world carefully monitors military activities along the border.
Russia is accused of having amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, a move that has prompted concerns by the West that Moscow could be planning another military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin has denied Western accusations of a looming invasion, saying its forces are there for exercises.
In February 2014, Russian forces entered the Crimean Peninsula, with President Vladimir Putin formally dividing the region into two separate federal subjects of the Russian Federation the following month.
Turkiye and the US as well as the UN General Assembly view the annexation as illegal.
According to the UN, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region has seen more than 13,000 people killed since 2014.
The region is one of several sources of friction between Russia and Ukraine.
* Elena Teslova contributed to this report from Moscow
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