Russian, US foreign ministers to meet in Paris next Tuesday: Moscow
The foreign ministers of Russia and the United States -- which are locked in a deeply antagonistic row over Ukraine -- are to meet in Paris next Tuesday, according to the Russian foreign ministry.
"In accordance with an earlier agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on October 14," a foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
"We very much expect that these talks will turn out to be constructive," spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said, indicating that the Ukraine and Syria crises will be on the agenda.
The meeting will come amid efforts by Western countries to maintain a September 5 ceasefire deal in Ukraine which has been routinely breached in the country's east.
But Lavrov, speaking from the Belarussian capital Minsk, said the peace process was moving in a "positive direction".
"The process... is not without a hitch but the tendency is unambiguously positive," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.
Lavrov said tentative dialogue had already begun between Kiev and rebels.
"The next step is an all-encompassing political dialogue, (and) constitutional reform with the participation of all regions and all political forces," he was quoted as saying.
"This is now a key task if we speak about long-term settlement of the Ukrainian crisis."
Russia's top diplomat however disparaged efforts by the US state department official focused on Europe, Victoria Nuland, to mediate the Ukraine crisis.
"This character performed a very damaging role at all the stages of the Ukraine crisis," Lavrov was quoted as telling reporters.
"I don't think her active involvement in the process which has after all started between Kiev authorities and rebels will be useful for the achievement of the result that everyone seeks, that is the establishment of sustainable peace and start of political dialogue."
Nuland, who went to Kiev this week for a three-day visit, irked Moscow for her overt support -- including publicly providing cookies -- for pro-Western protesters in the Ukrainian capital who went on to topple a Moscow-backed president.
Kerry has warned that if Moscow does not withdraw its forces from eastern Ukraine more US and EU sanctions could follow.
The United States and European Union have already slapped a series of sanctions on Moscow for its annexation of the southern Ukraine peninsula of Crimea, and its backing of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
© 2014 AFP