Kerry and Lavrov Meet for Four Hours, Talk about Russian Troops on Ukraine Border

Real progress in Ukraine requires military pullback, Kerry says.

March 30, 2014, 7:07 PM

March 30, 2014— -- After four hours of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the two sides agree on "the importance of finding a diplomatic solution" in Ukraine, but apparently not much else.

Kerry said the U.S. is working with Russia to de-escalate the crisis and called on Russia to pull back the military forces it has amassed on its border with Ukraine, but admitted that since the troops are on Russian soil, they have the right to be there.

The comments were made at a press conference following Kerry's four-hour emergency meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Russian ambassador's residence in Paris.

Kerry said the substance of "frank" conversations with his Russian counterpart aimed at settling the issue of the "very large Russian force that is currently amassing along Ukraine's borders," and reiteratated that he still considers Russia's recent moves to be "illegal and illegitimate."

"Both sides made suggestions today on how we can de-escalate the security as well as political situation in and around Ukraine," Kerry said. "The U.S. and Russia have differences of opinion about the events that led to this crisis, but both of us recognize the importance of finding a diplomatic solution."

The talks came after Russia's annexation of Crimea earlier this month and its subsequent gathering of some 40,000 troops along the eastern border of Ukraine, an act which Kerry said created "a climate of fear and intimidation."

The senator said "any real progress in Ukraine must include pullback by Russian forces," but after speaking "at length" with Lavrov about the situation, conceded that no resolute decision had been made to withdraw troops.

"We have ideas, we have some proposals that both sides made," Kerry said. "In the end obviously the troops are in Russia, they're on Russian soil. The question is not of right or legality, the question is of strategic appropriateness and whether it's right at the time."

Both sides were adamant that Ukraine's participation in the process ahead was mandatory.

"It is Ukrainians who ultimately have to agree to or make any decisions with respect to the road ahead," Kerry said, adding that federalization of Ukraine as proposed by Russia is up to Ukrainians and that Russia had agreed to respect the rights of Ukrainians to make that choice.

Kerry also pledged U.S. support to Ukraine as it continues to travels its "difficult path to prosperity and peace."

Lavrov said today's talks were "very, very constructive " and said he and Kerry had agreed to work with the Ukrainian government to improve rights for Russian-speaking Ukrainians and disarming "irregular forces and provocateurs," according to The Associated Press.

Kerry had been on his way home from Saudi Arabia, where he traveled with President Obama on Friday, but diverted his flight to attend the talks with Lavrov instead.

ABC News' Christopher Good and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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