Russia and US say dialogue will continue

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Switzerland.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Switzerland.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says after talks with the United States in Geneva that dialogue would continue over his country's security demands and that it expects written responses from the US next week.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lavrov said he hoped that emotions would cool down over Ukraine and repeated Russian assertions that it poses no threat to its former Soviet neighbour.

Russia, which has tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's border and has sent troops to Belarus for joint military drills, wants NATO to promise not to admit Ukraine as a member and has urged the military alliance to halt eastward expansion.

NATO has rejected the demands.

Describing Friday's talks as open and useful, Lavrov said Russia had no plans to attack Ukraine and that President Vladimir Putin was always ready for contacts with US President Joe Biden but that any contact should be well prepared.

Lavrov criticised what he said was a "Russophobic minority" setting the tone.

He stressed that the security of one country in Europe could not be guaranteed to the detriment of another.

This principle is preserved in the documents on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, he said and had asked Blinken to comment on how the US intended to respect this principle.

Blinken said he had a "frank and substantive" conversation with Lavrov and that they would continue to try and bridge their differences over the crisis in Ukraine.

"I believe we can carry forward this work of developing understanding and agreements together that assure our mutual security. But that is contingent on Russia stopping its aggression toward Ukraine," he said after the talks ended in Geneva.

"So that is the choice Russia faces: It can choose the path of diplomacy that leads to peace and security or the path that will lead only to conflict, severe consequences and international condemnation."

Ahead of Friday's talks, Blinken and Lavrov shook hands in the Hotel President Wilson in the Swiss city of Geneva and agreed they expected no breakthrough.

"But I do hope and expect that we can test whether the path of diplomacy, of dialogue remains open. We're committed to walking that path, to resolving our differences peacefully and I hope to test that proposition today," Blinken said.

US hopes of building a united front of opposition to Russia were complicated by US President Joe Biden's comments at a news conference on Wednesday in which he predicted Russia would "move in" on Ukraine and said Russia would pay dearly.

NATO members fear Russia is planning a new assault on Ukraine after sending in forces into the former Soviet republic 2014 to annex the Crimea peninsula.

Russia denies planning an attack but says it could take unspecified military action if its security demands are not met.

with reporting from DPA

Australian Associated Press