U.S. and Russian officials will hold security talks on Jan. 10 to discuss concerns about their respective military activity and confront rising tensions over Ukraine, the two countries said.
A spokesperson for the Biden administration announced the date late on Monday, and said Russia and NATO were also likely to hold talks on Jan. 12, with a broader meeting including Moscow, Washington and other European countries set for Jan. 13.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed those dates on Tuesday and said he hoped the talks with the United States in Geneva would launch a process that would give Moscow new security guarantees from the West.
Such guarantees are a longstanding demand of Moscow, which alarmed the West by massing tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine in the past two months.
The Jan. 12 NATO meeting would be held in Brussels, Ryabkov said, while the Jan. 13 talks would involve the Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states.
CONCERNS ON THE TABLE
Russia's deployment of troops near Ukraine has raised fears in the West that Moscow, which seized Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014 and has since backed separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, may be poised for a new attack.
Russia has denied plans for an assault but says it could take unspecified military action if its security demands are not met.
Moscow, worried by what it says is the West's re-arming of Ukraine, has said it wants legally-binding guarantees NATO will not expand further eastwards, and that certain offensive weapons will not be deployed to Ukraine or other neighbouring countries. read more
The U.S. administration has promised economic sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine. It says it cannot promise a sovereign state such as Ukraine would never join NATO.
"When we sit down to talk, Russia can put its concerns on the table, and we will put our concerns on the table with Russia's activities as well," said the spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council, who declined to be identified. The spokesperson said no decisions would be made about Ukraine without Ukraine.
"There will be areas where we can make progress, and areas where we will disagree. That's what diplomacy is about."
U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday signed into law a massive spending bill that, among other things, will provide $300 million for an initiative supporting Ukraine's armed forces, and billions more for European defence broadly.
Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 and backed a pro-Russian separatist uprising in the east of the country that resulted in Kyiv losing control of a swath of territory in a conflict it says killed 15,000 people.
Major combat ended with a ceasefire in 2015, but deadly clashes still take place regularly.
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