Russia will co-operate with US 'without coercion'

2015-05-12 22:07


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Sochi - Russia vowed on Tuesday it was ready to work with the United States on a host of burning issues but insisted it would not bow to "coercion," as President Vladimir Putin hosted top US diplomat John Kerry.

On the highest-level US visit to Russia since the conflict in Ukraine erupted in late 2013, Putin met with Kerry at his summer residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

After over four hours of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry and Putin held another four hours of talks.

"Russia is ready for constructive co-operation with the United States both in the bilateral sphere and the international arena where our countries have special responsibility for global security and stability," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement after the Lavrov talks.

"However cooperation is only possible on an honest and equal basis, without attempts to dictate and coerce."

The Ukraine crisis is also likely to top the agenda at Nato foreign ministers talks on Wednesday in Antalya, Turkey - Kerry's next destination after Sochi.

Important to keep communicating

For his part, Kerry's staff tweeted on his personal account that the talks with Putin were "frank" and "productive".

US officials said Kerry wanted to press Putin to finally implement a shaky ceasefire in Ukraine, and aimed to gauge whether Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be on the wane as the rebels appear to be gaining the upper hand in the four-year civil war.

Kerry was also set to discuss Yemen and Libya and brief Putin on the negotiations on curtailing Iran's nuclear programme. He was accompanied by chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman who will travel to Vienna on Wednesday for a new round of Iran talks.

Ties between Moscow and Washington were shredded when Russia seized the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in early 2014 and buttressed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

But signs are now emerging that both Russia and the West may be ready to ease the tensions.

"We have a lot of business we could do together if there is interest," a senior state department official told reporters travelling on Kerry's plane.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described the visit by Kerry as "extremely positive" and said the talks would cover a wide range of topics including international "hot-button issues".

Putin has refused to budge on Ukraine, despite a ceasefire agreement negotiated in February in Minsk and biting Western sanctions.

"We have been very, very clear publicly that if Minsk is fully implemented... including restoration of the sovereign border, there will be an opportunity to roll back sanctions," the US official said.

However, he made it clear that f there were more serious violations "the pressure will increase."

Sanctions 'dead end' 

The Russian foreign ministry warned however that sanctions were "a dead end."

"No one will manage to force Russia give up its national interests and its principled position on the issues that are key for her."

Russia's opposition on Tuesday released a report based on research by slain Putin critic Boris Nemtsov detailing allegations of widespread Russian army involvement in Ukraine that Moscow has denied.

Kiev and the pro-Russian rebels accuse each other of violating the truce and Kiev said on Tuesday that three Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in clashes in the east over the past 24 hours.

While Kerry has met many times with Lavrov in various European cities, he has been anxious to hold face-to-face talks with the Putin, as they last met in Moscow in May 2013.

Kerry also planned to update Putin on his recent talks in New York with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as the clock ticks down to a June 30 deadline for a final deal to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

He was also expected to raise the issue of Russia's decision to lift a ban on selling sophisticated S-300 air defence missile systems to Tehran.

Read more on:    us  |  russia

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