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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

US, Russia speak of cooperation but no breakthroughs

US.Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (C) walk together after laying a wreath at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi, Russia.

Top US and Russian officials said they hoped to work together on contentious issues such as the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria but offered no sign of concrete progress after more than eight hours of talks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met for more than four hours each with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss topics including the Iran nuclear talks as well as the civil strife in Yemen and Libya.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the two foreign ministers accentuated the positive despite the fact that US-Russian relations have sunk to their lowest level since the Cold War largely because of the Ukraine crisis.

"We have an understanding that we need to avoid steps which are able to inflict a long-term harm to bilateral relations between Russia and the United States," Lavrov told reporters through an interpreter.

"There is no substitute for talking directly to key decision makers, particularly during a period that is a complex and fast moving as this is," Kerry added.

Kerry met Lavrov and Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in what was the highest-level US visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began in the autumn of 2013.

Ties between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in March 2014 and backed pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Moscow accuses Washington of orchestrating last year's overthrow of a Ukrainian president who was supported by Russia.

The United States has accused Russia of failing to withdraw heavy equipment such as air defence systems, tanks and artillery from eastern Ukraine in violation of a peace plan agreed in February and known as Minsk 2.

Russia denies Western and Ukrainian accusations that it is arming the pro-Russian separatists battling the government and supporting them with its own military forces. More than 6,100 people have been killed since April 2014 in the Ukraine crisis.

The United States and European Union imposed economic sanctions on Russia after it took over Crimea and have intensified them since. The US official hinted they could be eased if Russia complied with the Minsk plan, which calls for withdrawing heavy weaponry and respecting Ukraine's border.

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Tags:  Russia  US  sanctions  dead end  Sergei Lavrov  John Kerry  





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