US and Russia agree to keep talking after meeting on Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Jan 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. (ALEX BRANDON / AP)

GENEVA – The top US and Russian diplomats made no major breakthrough at talks on Ukraine on Friday but agreed to keep talking to try to resolve a crisis that has stoked fears of a military conflict.

But both said they were open to further dialogue, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saw grounds to hope that mutual security concerns could be addressed.

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"Based on the conversations we've had – the extensive conversations – over the past week and today here in Geneva I think there are grounds for and a means to address some of the mutual concerns that we have about security," Blinken said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinke described the talks as "frank and substantive”, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the ball was in Washington's court

He described the talks as "frank and substantive”, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the ball was in Washington's court.

Describing the meeting as open and useful, Lavrov said Moscow would understand whether talks were on the right track once it had received a written response to its sweeping security demands from the United States.

"I can't tell you if we're on the right track or the wrong track. We'll understand this when we receive the American response on paper to all the points in our proposal," Lavrov said.

Russia's demands include a halt to NATO's eastward expansion and a pledge that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the Western military alliance.

Blinken said he expected to share with Russia "our concerns and ideas in more detail and in writing next week" and said he and Lavrov had "agreed to further discussions after that".

Russia and the United States could hold another meeting next month to discuss Moscow's demands for security guarantees, Russia's RIA news agency quoted a source in the Russian delegation as saying.

Lavrov said Russia had worries of its own, "not about invented threats, but real facts that no one hides – pumping Ukraine with weapons, sending hundreds of western military instructors".

Asked about the possibility of a summit between President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden, Lavrov was circumspect.

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"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, President Putin is always ready for contacts with President Biden, it's clear these contacts need to be seriously prepared," he said.

Blinken’s deputy, Wendy Sherman, and Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, also met in Geneva last week, without a breakthrough.