Four hours of US-Russia talks have failed to find a breakthrough on the crisis in Ukraine, with the US demanding Russian troop withdrawals and Russia calling for a federal Ukraine.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and his US counterpart, John Kerry, said talks late on Sunday were constructive but there was no new deal or agreement on the future of the region.
Lavrov said he pressed Russia’s call for a federal Ukraine of regions free to choose their own economic model, language and religion, and said Kerry had agreed to work with the Ukrainian government to improve rights for Russian-speaking Ukrainians and disarming “irregular forces and provocateurs”.
Kerry said he agreed to work with the Ukraine government on those issues, but called for the removal of “illegal and illegitimate” Russian troops in Crimea, which he said were responsible for creating a climate of intimidation in mainland Ukraine.
“Any real progress … must include a pullback of the very large Russian force currently massing along Ukraine’s borders,” he said, adding that the US would “not accept a path forward where the legitimate government of Ukraine is not at the table.”
The discussions are part of a broader diplomatic effort to ease tensions following the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
Despite the differences, both diplomats shared broad aims on Ukraine, according to Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Paris.
Kerry “did admit that Russia’s opinion on, for example, subjects like federalisation are important because Russia has long ties with the country,” Baba said.
The only real progress that was made at Sunday’s talks was that “Russia and America have continued to talk to each other, keeping in mind the interests of the whole of Ukraine”, according to Al Jazeera’s Baba.
“The main bone of contention remains”, Baba said.