Western powers press Russia to open Ukraine dialogue

5th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

The United States and other Western powers on Wednesday pressed Russia to open a dialogue with the new government in Ukraine aimed at finding a way out of the crisis in the Crimea.

Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to hold face-to-face talks with his Ukrainian counterpart in a brief chat on the sidelines of an international meeting on Lebanon, US officials said.

Kerry, who has worked closely with Lavrov on Syria, had a brief discussion with the Russian after similar talks involving the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, a senior State Department official said.

"The Secretary urged direct talks between Russia and Ukraine. They will be meeting again in approximately an hour to continue their discussions."

It was the first time Kerry and Lavrov had met since a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine was ousted, prompting the de facto takeover of the Crimean peninsula by pro-Moscow forces.

Acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya was in Paris and said earlier he was keen to hold face-to-face discussions with Lavrov.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said European Union governments would have no option but to consider sanctions against Russia if it did not agree to enter dialogue with a Ukrainian government that Moscow does not recognise.

EU leaders are due to discuss the Ukraine situation at an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday.

"I think what happens at the European Council will partly be determined by Russia's willingness to talk to Ukraine today," Hague said. "This is the test for Russia today."

The government currently in power in Ukraine took power on February 22 after Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych fled the country following three months of pro-European Union protests which left nearly 100 dead.

Hague said Yanukovych's departure legitimised the administration that has filled the gap and urged Russia to accept it as a negotiating partner.

© 2014 AFP

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