Kerry refuses to meet Putin unless U.S. proposals on Ukraine engaged

Kerry refuses to meet Putin unless U.S. proposals on Ukraine engaged

PanARMENIAN.Net - A meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will not happen until Moscow engages with U.S. proposals to tackle the crisis in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

Kerry told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that “Moscow's military intervention in Crimea had made any negotiations extremely difficult.”

U.S. officials say there will be little to talk about if the referendum on Crimea's future goes ahead. The referendum is to be held on Sunday, March 16. Ukraine and the West say that the vote is illegal.

Russia said on Monday it was drafting counter-proposals to a U.S. plan for a negotiated solution to the crisis.

Moscow has condemned Ukraine's new Western-backed government as an unacceptable "fait accompli" - it says that Russian-leaning parts of the country have been turned into havens of lawlessness.

In a televised briefing with President Putin on Monday, Lavrov said proposals made by Kerry for a negotiated solution to the crisis are "not suitable" because they take "the situation created by the coup as a starting point", referring to the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych.

Washington says that there has been no official response yet to a set of questions Kerry gave Lavrov at the weekend, asking in particular whether Moscow is prepared to meet officials from the new Ukrainian government.

"The United States needs to see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on the diplomatic proposals we have made to facilitate direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia and to use international mechanisms like a contact group to deescalate the conflict," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a recent written statement.

"Kerry made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov that he would welcome further discussions focused on how to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine if and when we see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on these proposals," Psaki said.

She said "it was conceivable" that Kerry might meet Lavrov prior to the planned Crimean referendum but the secretary of state first wanted to ensure that Moscow would engage seriously on US diplomatic proposals.

Meanwhile NATO on Monday announced that it is to deploy reconnaissance planes in Poland and Romania to monitor the Ukrainian crisis. The alliance said the surveillance flights would "enhance the alliance's situational awareness".

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