Crisis in Ukraine: US, Russia to hold NATO expansion security talks

World

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo / AP

Talks between Russia and the United States over Moscow’s demand for Western guarantees preventing NATO expansion in Ukraine will begin immediately after the New Year’s holiday period, the top diplomat said on Monday (local time). Russian.

“It is with the United States that we will conduct most of the negotiations, which will take place immediately after the end of the New Year’s holidays,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview. The holidays in Russia will last 10 days, until January 9.

Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR and cancel alliance military deployments. in central and eastern Europe. Washington and its allies refused to provide such promises, but said they were ready for talks.

The demands, contained in a draft Russian-American security treaty and a security accord between Moscow and NATO, were drafted amid rising tensions over a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine which fueled fears of a possible invasion. Russia has denied that it intends to attack its neighbor, but asked for legal guarantees that would exclude NATO expansion and the deployment of weapons there.

Lavrov said last week that in addition to talks with the United States, Moscow would begin separate talks with NATO on the issue, as well as separate negotiations under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

It is important that “our proposals do not end in endless discussions, which the West is famous for and which it knows how to do, that there is a result of all these diplomatic efforts,” Lavrov said on Monday. .

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.  Photo / AP
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. Photo / AP

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has decided to call a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on January 12, a NATO official said on Saturday, adding that the bloc was in contact with Russia over the meeting.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Monday that the meeting would take place, calling the NATO talks “important”, but said details of the meeting were “in the works” and the date remains to be confirmed.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told a briefing to military attachés and representatives of foreign embassies on Monday that NATO’s “continuing confrontational stance towards Russia” has forced Moscow to require security guarantees.

“The alliance has always ignored Russian interests and moved away from a fair discussion of existing issues,” Fomin said.

Christi C. Elwood