A fresh round of diplomatic talks in Geneva between the United States and Russia have failed to yield a solution to tensions in Ukraine.
This content was published on January 21, 2022 - 17:53 January 21, 2022 - 17:53
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But there were still some crumbs of comfort that both sides appear far more willing to talk than come to blows, according to a Swiss expert on diplomatic negotiations.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov followed up from a previous round of talksExternal link between their deputies in the same Swiss city earlier this month.
They were aimed at defusing a tense situation at Russia's border with Ukraine, where some 100,000 Russian troops are positioned. Russia blames western countries of interfering in the region by inviting Ukraine to join the NATO military alliance. The US accuses Russia of preparing to invade its neighbour.
The discussions were described by both sides as“frank”, which is diplomatic code for neither side finding much to agree on or being willing to give ground.
“I believe there are areas where we can address some of each other's concerns on a mutual basis,” Blinken said after the one and half hour talks ended. Lavrov accused western allies of being led by a“Russophobic minority” but expects the US to answer Russian demands in writing ahead of further talks.
Jury still out
Despite the lack of obvious breakthrough, there were some reasons for optimism, according to Jérôme Bellion-Jourdan, director of the International Negotiation and Policy-Making Program at the Graduate Institute's Executive Education in Geneva
“The statements from State Secretary Blinken and Minister Lavrov appear to signal a willingness to try to resolve the issues through diplomacy. It's obviously important to move beyond the kind of threats and accusations that both sides have used in the past,' he told SWI swissinfo.ch.
“We can expect the path of diplomacy to remain open, but we also see a clear risk of a military escalation. The jury is still out as to whether diplomacy will manage to diffuse the tensions and set the path for meaningful negotiations for a new security architecture in Europe.'
Dialogue only way
Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also met with Blinken and Lavrov separately. Given the problems still being caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,“it would be devastating for Europe and the world if a new crisis gained the upper hand,” he told reporters on Friday.
The venue for the talks underscores 'the unbroken importance of International Geneva when it comes to finding solutions to current challenges,' he said in a later statementExternal link .
“Switzerland is concerned about rising tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border. We are convinced that only dialogue can strengthen security on the European continent,” the statement added.
Cassis remains confident that next year's Ukraine Reform ConferenceExternal link , scheduled to take place in the southern Swiss city of Lugano will still go ahead. The meeting aims to support the ongoing political reform process in Ukraine.
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