Russia and the US hold working dinner to open talks in Geneva

Russia and the US hold working dinner to open talks in Geneva

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and other Russian officials met for more than two hours with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, head of the US delegation, and her team in the luxury residence of the US ambassador Geneva.

The dinner was a prelude to a broader discussion between the two teams at the US mission in Geneva starting Monday, culminating in a series of meetings both virtual and in person between US officials, their allies Westerners and Russian leaders in recent days and weeks as tensions over Russian pressure against Ukraine have grown.

“We dive into the essence of the upcoming issues, but the talks are going to be difficult,” Ryabkov told reporters as he left the dinner. “They can’t be easy. They will be professionals. I think we won’t waste time tomorrow.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said that at dinner Sunday, Sherman “emphasized the United States’ commitment to international principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the freedom of sovereign nations to choose their own alliances,” in reference to Ukraine and its aspirations to join. NATO.

Sherman “affirmed that the United States would welcome genuine progress through diplomacy,” Price said in a statement.

The talks are seen as a first step in reviving dialogue as ties have worsened as Russia has deployed some 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine. Concerns have grown about a broader Russian military incursion into the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has put forward a list of demands, including seeking assurances that the NATO military alliance will not seek to expand further east into countries like Ukraine or Georgia, which are former Soviet republics.

“The Russian side came here with a clear position that contains a number of elements that, in my opinion, are understandable and have been formulated so clearly, even at a high level, that it is simply not possible to deviate from our approaches,” Ryabkov said. . .

Asked if Russia was ready for a compromise, he said: “The Americans should prepare to compromise.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he did not expect any progress in talks with the Russians in Geneva or during talks in Brussels, at a NATO Council meeting. -Russia and in the Organization for Cooperation. and Security in Europe in Vienna later this week.

The United States and other Western allies have promised “severe costs” to Russia if it moves against Ukraine.

“The question really now is whether President Putin will take the path of diplomacy and dialogue or seek confrontation,” Blinken said, suggesting a deeper Russian move into Ukraine could go against Moscow’s long-term interests.

“If Russia commits aggression against Ukraine again, I think it is very likely that NATO will reinforce its positions along its eastern flank, the countries that border Russia,” he told ABC.

Russia was entering the talks seeking a clearer understanding of the US position and cited signals from Washington that some of the Russian proposals may be discussed, Ryabkov said on Sunday, according to the state news agency Tass.

He laid out Russia’s three demands: no more NATO expansion, no missiles on Russia’s borders, and that NATO no longer have military exercises, intelligence operations or infrastructure outside its 1997 borders.

US officials on Saturday expressed openness to discussions on curtailing possible future offensive missile deployments in Ukraine and imposing limits on US and NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe, if Russia is willing to back down on Ukraine. .

But they warned of harsh economic sanctions in the event of a Russian intervention, including direct sanctions on Russian entities and restrictions on products exported from the US to Russia.

Ambassador Thomas Greminger, director of the Swiss government-backed Center for Security Policy in Geneva, which hosted Ryabkov at a conference in October, said the Geneva talks were “an opportunity to express mutual concerns, express mutual expectations. too early to expect any clarity, for example, regarding Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO membership.

“What we are seeing is a lot of posturing,” added Greminger, who was also an OSCE director. “I think that, in the end, neither Putin nor (the US president escalated.”

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Matthew Lee and Lynn Berry contributed to this report from Washington.

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