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25 Oct, 2022 02:11

White House responds to US lawmakers’ call for Russia talks

Kiev must be part of any future negotiations with Moscow, Washington insists
White House responds to US lawmakers’ call for Russia talks

US officials have dismissed the idea of direct talks with Moscow without Kiev’s involvement, after a group of 30 House Democrats wrote a letter urging President Joe Biden to pursue a diplomatic end to the conflict in Ukraine.

“We’ve been very clear: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday, adding that “this is a decision that President [Vladimir] Zelensky is going to have to make when it comes to any type of conversation with Russia, any type of negotiation.”

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby similarly stated on Monday that the Ukrainians must be part of any future negotiations. 

“We’re not going to have conversations with the Russian leadership without the Ukrainians being represented,” Kirby said, as cited by the Washington Post. “Mr. Zelensky gets to determine – because it’s his country – what success looks like and when to negotiate.”

Kirby noted the Biden administration “appreciates [the lawmakers’] very thoughtful concerns,” while Jean-Pierre admitted she had not seen the letter. Both, however, insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin could choose to end the conflict “at any time.” 

In a letter to the White House on Monday, Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal (Washington) cited the “destruction” of Ukraine, the threat of nuclear war, and the economic turmoil visited upon Europe as reasons to pursue a negotiated settlement.

Signed by prominent progressives including Ro Khanna (Pennsylvania), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), the letter acknowledged that the ultimate decision on when to return to the negotiating table remains Ukraine’s. However, it concluded by urging Biden to open “direct talks with Russia,” without suggesting what kind of compromises the lawmakers think Ukraine should make for peace.

Ukraine’s president previously said he would never negotiate with Russia as long as Putin is in power, and has vowed to seize the four formerly Ukrainian regions that recently joined the Russian Federation, as well as Crimea, which voted to rejoin Russia in 2014.