The Russian Foreign Minister has said it is “absolutely necessary" to avoid steps that could further harm the ailing relations between Russia and the US. He spoke at a media briefing following lengthy talks with his US counterpart.
US Secretary of State John Kerry made his official visit to Sochi on Tuesday, the first visit by a senior American official to Russia since the start of the Ukrainian turmoil in 2014 and the resulting plummet in relations between Moscow and Washington.
Addressing the media after the talks, both diplomats stressed that they were on common ground with regards to many issues, including the situation in Syria and the threat of Islamic State terrorists in the region, as well as the Iranian nuclear deal. They also discussed the developing conflict in Yemen.
John Kerry thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the "directness" he showed during the talks, and the "detailed explanation of Russia's position" on the issues that are causing divisions.
The two diplomats admitted they were having a number of disagreements over the Ukrainian conflict, but both agreed on one thing: that February's Minsk peace roadmap is the best way to solve the crisis, and that diplomacy is the only way to peace. Both Lavrov and Kerry urged every international power that has any influence on any party in the Ukrainian conflict to exercise that influence in order to bring about the full implementation of the Minsk deals.
When asked about Ukrainian President Poroshenko's recent vows to recapture the Donetsk airport, John Kerry said he had not read Poroshenko's exact speech. He did, however, say that he would warn Poroshenko against inciting new hostilities.
Kerry held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, focused on bilateral ties, as well as several major international issues. The meeting lasted over four hours instead of the planned hour and a half, and immediately followed similarly long talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Earlier, the two diplomats laid flowers to a World War II memorial.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) lay a wreath at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi, Russia May 12, 2015 (Reuters / Joshua Roberts)
During the talks, Russia's top diplomat stressed that the current crisis in relations between the two nations is not Russia's fault. According to a foreign ministry press release, Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is ready to work with the US, but only as an equal partner,“without attempts of dictate and coercion". The foreign minister said that escalating the confrontation and using sanctions to pressure Russia are a “dead end", as Russia will not be made to “sacrifice its national interests and stances on the matters it sees as crucial."
During the media briefing, John Kerry said sanctions against Russia would be rolled back "if and when"all of the points of the Minsk deal are implemented in Ukraine.
Following the talks between Kerry and Putin, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said the Russian president wants US-Russian relations back to normal, Reuters reports. He said, however, that Tuesday's talks brought no major breakthrough in diplomacy between the two nations.
White house representative Josh Earnest said at a press briefing that he thought the US and Russia can cooperate effectively, despite the serious disagreements between them. He pointed out a number of issues where the cooperation is already taking place, including space exploration and the chemical disarmament of Syria.