By Kyle Balluck - 03/30/14 06:15 PM EDT
Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryTime for Action on Bahrain When wise men attack: Why Gates is wrong about Clinton, Libya Internal memo: Refugee program vulnerable to fraud MORE and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed ways to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine during a meeting on Sunday, Kerry said.
Any real progress, however, must include a pullback of the "very large Russian force that is currently massing along Ukraine’s borders," Kerry said.
"The U.S. and Russia have differences of opinion about the events that led to this crisis, but both of us recognize the importance of finding a diplomatic solution and of simultaneously meeting the needs of the Ukrainian people," Kerry told reporters in Paris after meeting with his Russian counterpart.
The meeting was "very, very productive," Lavrov said in a tweet.
"Russia and the U.S. have agreed to work with Kiev to implement constitutional reforms," he tweeted.
Ukraine is traveling a “difficult Democratic path,” Kerry said, adding that Lavrov “indicated that Russia wants to support Ukraine in its independence and its ability to make that transition.”
“Ukrainians will decide their future,” Kerry said. “The U.S. and international community stand in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“We will continue to support the people of Ukraine,” he added.
Kerry also said the Ukrainian government has shown “remarkable restraint” in the face of “enormous” pressure, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the massing of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders.
"I made clear that the United States still considers the Russian actions to be illegal and illegitimate," Kerry said.
The meeting between the two diplomats followed a call between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday to discuss a U.S. offer for a resolution to the crisis.
A White House official refused to go into details of the U.S. proposal, but said, “previously we discussed general elements of an off-ramp, including: international monitors, pull back of Russian forces, and direct Russia-Ukraine dialogue — supported by the international community — taking into account the Ukrainian government's openness to constitutional reform and upcoming Ukrainian elections.”
—This report was updated at 9:45 p.m.