Kerry, Lavrov agree to further Ukraine talks

 

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have agreed to meet again on the crisis in Ukraine, the White House said Monday.

No date, however, has been set for the next meeting between the top diplomats.

Over the weekend, Kerry and Lavrov huddled in Paris for nearly four hours, as they worked on a deal to de-escalate the crisis, prompted by Russia’s movement of troops into Crimea and the annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.

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On Sunday, Kerry told reporters that any progress would be predicated on a pullback of the "very large Russian force that is currently massing along Ukraine’s borders."

A Ukrainian defense official said Monday that the number of Russian troops deployed on the border had decreased, according to Reuters, signaling possible progress following the talks. Russian President Vladimir Putin also told German Chancellor Angela Merkel he would order a "partial withdrawal" of troops from the border, according to The Telegraph.

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said the administration had not "confirmed this is taking place."

"Were it to be true, that would be a positive sign," Carney said.

The White House spokesman also reiterated that the United States would not continue to discuss a resolution to the crisis without representatives from the interim government in Kiev present.

"We have been clear that the United States will not discuss the future of Ukraine without the Ukrainian people," Carney said. "There is no discussion of constitutional change or change in the nature of the relationships of various regions of Ukraine to the center without the full participation of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government."

Carney said that further diplomatic talks would be "difficult" because of the "current tense atmosphere."

"That's why we have called on Russia to pull its forces back to their pre-crisis positions and levels," Carney said. "It is also necessary for Russia to establish direct dialogue with Ukraine, with international mediation, as necessary, and to expand monitoring mechanisms on the ground to address any legitimate concerns about the situation in Ukraine, for the international community to provide monitors to help that come about."