On sidelines of OSCE meeting in Stockholm, Sergey Lavrov, Antony Blinken meet to exchange security concerns.
MOSCOW (AA) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on Thursday in Stockholm to discuss a wide range of bilateral and international issues, including the Ukraine conflict.
Opening the meeting that was broadcast live on sidelines of the OSCE conference in Stockholm, Lavrov and Blinken made it clear that the Ukrainian settlement will be on the top of the agenda.
Lavrov said Russia is interested in uniting efforts with the US in order to settle the Ukrainian conflict in accordance with the steps taken in the Normandy Format (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine).
“We are interested in joining efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. Our American colleagues have repeatedly said that they want to help without destroying the Normandy format by restoring a separate channel of dialogue that existed under the previous administration,” he said.
Lavrov agreed that tensions have been rising in Europe recently, saying the only way to normalize the situation is through finding a balance of interests.
“I have no doubt that the only way out of the current state of crisis – it is really very tense – is to seek a balance of interests, and I hope that we will deal with this today,” he said.
Russia does not want any conflicts but Russia’s response to NATO’s further expansion will be ensuring its legitimate security interests, he said.
“And let’s not forget the repeatedly proclaimed principle of indivisibility of security, including within the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), and the Russia-NATO Council, which states that no one should strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others. And the further advance of NATO to the east will definitely affect the fundamental interests of our security,” he said.
As for the bilateral Russian-US relations, Lavrov said one of the issues that can be solved quite quickly is the problems faced by the Russian diplomats in the US and the American diplomats in Russia.
– US ‘deeply concerned about Russia’s plans’
For his part, Antony Blinken reconfirmed the US preferences for a stable and predictable relationship with Russia.
“But as we made very clear in recent weeks that we have deep concerns about Russia’s plans for renewed aggression against Ukraine. That would move us exactly in the opposite direction, and it’s simply not in anyone’s interests,” he said.
Blinken noted that it is not only Washington’s concern but a concern shared by many in Europe.
“We have a strong, iron-plate commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity of Ukraine. The best way to avert the crisis is through diplomacy. And that’s what I’m looking forward to discussing with Sergey, including full implementation of the Minsk Agreement,” he said.
Blinken added that the US is willing to facilitate mending ties between Moscow and Kyiv but if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences.
The US secretary of state also said he would like to discuss with his Russian counterpart the restoration of the Iranian nuclear deal, Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, and release of the US citizens imprisoned in Russia.