The US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have ended emergency talks without finding a suitable diplomatic solution for the Ukrainian crisis.
During the four-hour meeting at the Russian ambassador’s residence in Paris, France, Lavrov set out a series of tough conditions, including a demand that the US and its European Union (EU) partners accept Moscow’s proposal for a neutral and federal Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters, Lavrov said Russia does not see any other way for the steady development of the Ukrainian state apart from as a federation.
"Given the proportion of native Russians [in Ukraine], we propose this and we are sure there is no other way," Lavrov said.
Discussed over the phone by the Russian President and his US counterpart Barack Obama last week, the Russian proposal seeks to provide ethnic Russian regions of eastern and southern Ukraine with control of its economy, taxes, culture, language, education and "external economic and cultural connections with neighbouring countries or regions", The Guardian reports.
Kerry said the two countries have differences of opinion about the events that led to the crisis, but recognise the importance of finding a diplomatic solution and of simultaneously meeting the requirements of the Ukrainian citizens.
"The United States is consulting with Ukraine at every step of this process, and we will not accept a path forward where the legitimate Government of Ukraine is not at the table," Kerry added, noting that the two countries have made suggestions on ways to deescalate the security and political situation in and around Ukraine.
Both sides have agreed to work with the Ukrainian Government to achieve priorities such as language rights, demobilisation and disarmament of ‘irregular forces and provocateurs’, an inclusive constitutional reform process, as well as free and fair elections monitored by the international community, according to the US Secretary.
The meeting took place amidst the reported build-up of an estimated 40,000 Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s eastern border, widely regarded by the US and its European allies as a prelude to an invasion.
However, Lavrov said: "We have absolutely no intention of, or interest in, crossing Ukraine’s borders."
Image: .US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov prepare for bilateral meeting in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: US Department of State.