US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the crisis in Ukraine. Lavrov has said that their positions are 'getting closer.'
Halfway home from a trip to the Middle East, Secretary Kerry turned back after refueling his plane in Ireland and arrived in Paris late on Saturday. He held talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Sunday about a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for nearly an hour on the phone and agreed to have their top diplomats meet to discuss steps aimed at resolving the crisis. Putin reportedly initiated the phone call.
Earlier in the week, Kerry proposed a framework to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. The proposal called for the deployment of international monitors, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine's eastern borders, and direct talks between Kyiv and Moscow.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Lavrov told Russian state television on Saturday that Moscow and Washington were "getting closer in our positions." Lavrov said that the Kremlin wants Ukraine to adopt a federal political model, which would grant greater autonomy to the country's eastern and southern regions with large Russian-speaking communities.
'No ambiguity' on NATO membership'
He also said that Ukraine joining NATO was a red line for Moscow.
"There should be no ambiguity here," Lavrov said. "There is too much 'not for the time being' and 'we don't intend' (to join NATO). Intentions change, but facts on the ground remain."
Kyiv has called for increased military cooperation with the EU and US in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has massed 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine's eastern borders, according to Kyiv. US officials have put the number at 40,000.
The troop buildup has raised concern in the West that Russia might seek to intervene militarily on behalf of Russian-speaking communities in mainland Ukraine. But Lavrov on Saturday dismissed such speculation.
"We have absolutely no intention and no interests in crossing the Ukrainian border," he told Russian state television.
slk/crh (AP, AFP)