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23 Jan, 2024 10:16

Lavrov debunks US claim on Ukraine talks

Any peace settlement will have to accommodate Russia’s core security interests, the foreign minister has said
Lavrov debunks US claim on Ukraine talks

Moscow has never closed the door to dialogue to end the Ukraine conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday, reiterating that the country's key goal remains stopping NATO’s unchecked expansion towards its borders.

In a rare interview with CBS News in New York, where he arrived to take part in UN meetings on Ukraine and the Middle East, Lavrov rejected a recent claim by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who alleged that Moscow has shown no “willingness… to engage, to negotiate in good faith” to end the conflict with Kiev.

“It’s not true,” Lavrov stressed, adding that Russia has always been ready to discuss “any serious proposal” that addresses the situation on the ground and the root causes of hostilities. Moscow is also willing to reach a solution “which would guarantee legitimate national interests of Russia and the Ukrainian people,” the diplomat stated.

Lavrov reiterated that Russia is prepared to listen to anyone interested in establishing “justice” in relations between Moscow and Kiev. He insisted, however, that this would require the West to stop its policy of “using Ukraine as an instrument of war against Russia.” 

Lavrov recalled that Russia has long voiced concerns about NATO expansion. “The goal is very simple… we’ve been warning publicly since 2008… that NATO’s expansion against all promises [to Russia and the Soviet Union]… was going too far,” he said.

At a 2008 summit in Bucharest, NATO leaders declared that Ukraine would eventually become part of the alliance, sparking a backlash from Russia, which has traditionally viewed the US-led military bloc’s expansion towards its borders as an existential threat.

In December 2021, weeks before the start of the Ukraine conflict, Moscow submitted a draft of security guarantees to the US and NATO, demanding that the West ban Kiev’s accession to the bloc and retreat to its borders as of 1997. The overture, however, was rebuffed.

Officials from Moscow and Kiev said the two sides were close to reaching a peace deal early in the Ukraine conflict, with a key Russian demand being that the neighboring country recommit to neutral status and abandon its NATO ambitions. According to numerous reports, the process was derailed by then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who convinced Ukraine to continue fighting.