Kerry, Russian FM Meet Amid Tensions 03/02 06:19
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday with his Russian counterpart
in what appeared to be less than amicable talks amid continuing tensions over
Ukraine and American calls for a full probe into the murder of a prominent
opposition figure in Moscow.
GENEVA (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday with his
Russian counterpart in what appeared to be less than amicable talks amid
continuing tensions over Ukraine and American calls for a full probe into the
murder of a prominent opposition figure in Moscow.
immediately provide details of the discussion. Kerry said in a tweet that
they talked about Ukraine, Syria and ongoing negotiations with Iran over its
nuclear program.Kerry and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke for
roughly 80 minutes at a Geneva hotel, according to the State Department, which
But in a change from their usual cordial encounters for cameras, neither man
smiled or spoke substantively as they shook hands at the start of the talks
that took place less than a week after Kerry told Congress that Russian
officials have lied to his face about Moscow's role in Ukraine.
That comment drew a rebuke from the Russian foreign ministry. U.S. officials
have pointed out that Kerry did not specifically accuse Lavrov of lying to him.
They say he was referring to public statements and media reports, although
Lavrov is the only Russian official Kerry is known to have met face-to-face in
recent months. The pair last met in February on the sidelines of an
international security conference in Munich shortly before a new Ukraine
ceasefire agreement was agreed upon.
Both Ukraine and the Russian-backed rebels have accused each other of
violating the truce and the meeting comes as the U.S. and its European allies
contemplate additional sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine. In his
congressional testimony last week, Kerry said that fresh U.S. sanctions had
already been prepared and suggested they could be implemented soon.
However, U.S. officials have said since that they will wait to see if the
ceasefire and follow-on commitments to end the violence in Ukraine's east are
complied with before putting the sanctions in place.
As the two men met, the Geneva-based U.N. human rights office said that more
than 6,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since the start of the conflict
almost a year ago. It said the fighting has led to a "merciless devastation of
civilian lives and infrastructure."
Hundreds of civilians and military personnel have been killed in recent
weeks alone after an upswing in fighting particularly near Donetsk airport and
in the Debaltseve area, the body said in a report covering the period from
December to February. The strategic railroad town of Debaltseve was captured
from Ukrainian government forces last month by pro-Russian separatists.
While Russia denies its troops are fighting in Ukraine, the U.N. cited
"credible reports (that) indicate a continuing flow of heavy weaponry and
foreign fighters" from Russia.
Kerry and Lavrov each addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council later Monday
and a senior U.S. official said they had met again briefly there to continue
their earlier discussion.
The Kerry-Lavrov meeting also followed Friday's murder near the Kremlin of
Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Kerry and other U.S. and western
officials have called on Russia to conduct a prompt, thorough, transparent and
credible investigation into the slaying. Russian President Vladimir Putin has
said he will take personal charge of the probe. U.S. officials traveling with
Kerry would not say what they thought of Putin's move and said they would
withhold comment until the investigation is complete.