Lavrov, Kerry discuss Ukraine constitutional reform, fair elections
“We have conducted intensive negotiations in the first place, on the crisis in Ukraine,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after four hours of negotiations with his US Secretary of State John Kerry . “We expressed dissenting views on its causes, but agreed to seek common ground to resolve the situation in Ukraine.”
The diplomats shared with each other their suggestions on how to deescalate the situation, but both agreed that the Ukrainian people should take the leading role in deciding their own future.
“We have agreed to work with the Ukrainian government, the Ukrainian people in the broadest sense, to achieve the implementation of such priority measures as minority rights, language rights, disarmament of provocateurs, implementing constitutional reforms and having free and fair elections under international supervision,” Lavrov told journalists.
The minister stressed that neither Russia nor the United States can impose any plans on Ukraine, drafted unilaterally without the Ukrainian side.
“We discussed the constitutional reform, in favor of which we stand together with the Americans… And which, as I understand it, the Ukrainian authorities have committed to.” Lavrov said.
“We are convinced that federalization is a very important component of this reform, the most important is to ensure the unity of Ukraine taking into account the interests of all regions of the country, without exceptions, so that the country functions as a state. We need to find a compromise, consensus among all regions,” he added.
Kerry confirmed that “differences of opinion about events” that led to Ukraine crisis did not stop the sides from looking for ways to de-escalate the security and political situation “in and around Ukraine.”
“The US and Russia have differences of opinion about events that led to this crisis but both of us recognize the importance of finding a diplomatic solution and simultaneously meeting the needs of the Ukrainian people, and that we agreed on tonight," Kerry said.
Speaking to the press, Kerry took a chance to once again remind that Washington still considered Russia’s actions in Ukraine “illegal and illegitimate.” He also voiced his concerns about a “very large Russian force currently massing along Ukraine’s borders,” despite the fact that four international missions, observation flights and even representatives from Ukraine did not record any suspicious or aggressive military activities.
“Tonight I raised with the foreign minister [Lavrov] our strong concern that about these forces,” Kerry said. “We believe that these forces create a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine.”
When asked to specify whether, besides voicing concerns, there were any discussions or decisions reached about the "massing of troops." “Yes, we talked very seriously and at length about the impact of the massing of troops, the importance of, including the draw-down and redeployment of some of those troops with respect to the process moving forward,” Kerry answered before quickly changing the subject.
“The question is not one of right or legality, the question is one of strategic appropriateness,” Kerry said when asked about Russian troops again. “In the end, obviously, the troops are in Russia, they are on Russian soil.”