By Simon Lewis
GENEVA -Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with the United States in Geneva on Friday that dialogue would continue over Moscow’s security demands and that it expected written responses from Washington next week.
Speaking at a news conference after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lavrov said he hoped that emotions would cool down over Ukraine and repeated Russian assertions that it poses no threat to its former Soviet neighbour.
Russia, which has tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s border and has sent troops to Belarus for joint military drills, wants NATO to promise not to admit Ukraine as a member and has urged the Western military alliance to halt eastward expansion. NATO has rejected the demands.
Describing Friday’s talks as open and useful, Lavrov said Russian had no plans to attack Ukraine and that President Vladimir Putin was always ready for contacts with U.S. President Joe Biden, but that any contact should be well prepared.
Blinken was scheduled to hold his own news briefing.
Ahead of Friday’s talks, Blinken and Lavrov shook hands in the Hotel President Wilson in the Swiss city of Geneva and agreed they expected no breakthrough.
“But I do hope and expect that we can test whether the path of diplomacy, of dialogue remains open. We’re committed to walking that path, to resolving our differences peacefully and I hope to test that proposition today,” Blinken said.
Washington’s hopes of building a united front of opposition to Moscow were complicated by U.S. President Joe Biden’s comments at a news conference on Wednesday in which he predicted Russia would “move in” on Ukraine and said Moscow would pay dearly.
Western states fear Moscow is planning a new assault on Ukraine after sending in forces into the former Soviet republic 2014 to annex the Crimea peninsula. Russia denies planning an attack but says it could take unspecified military action if its security demands are not met.