Russian FM: security talks with US to begin after holiday

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MOSCOW – Talks between Russia and the United States on Moscow’s demand for Western guarantees preventing NATO expansion in Ukraine will begin immediately after the New Year’s holiday period, Russia’s top diplomat said on Monday.

“It is with the United States that we will conduct most of the negotiations, which will take place immediately after the end of the New Year’s holidays,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview on Monday. The holidays in Russia will last 10 days, until January 9.

Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union and cancel military deployments from the Soviet Union. alliance in central and eastern Europe. Washington and its allies refused to provide such promises, but said they were ready for talks.

The demands, contained in a draft Russian-American security treaty and a security deal between Moscow and NATO, were drafted amid growing tensions over a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine that fueled fears. of a possible invasion. Russia has denied that it intends to attack its neighbor, but asked for legal guarantees that would exclude NATO expansion and the deployment of weapons there.

Lavrov said last week that in addition to talks with the United States, Moscow would begin separate talks with NATO on the issue, as well as separate negotiations under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

It is important that “our proposals do not end in endless discussions, which the West is famous for and which it knows how to do, that there be a result of all these diplomatic efforts,” Lavrov said. Monday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has decided to call a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on January 12, a NATO official said on Saturday, adding that the bloc was in contact with Russia over the meeting.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Monday that the meeting would take place, calling the NATO talks “important”, but said details of the meeting were “in the works” and the date remains to be confirmed.

Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told a briefing to military attachés and representatives of foreign embassies on Monday that NATO’s “continuing confrontational stance towards Russia” has forced Moscow to demand guarantees of security.

“The alliance has always ignored Russian interests and moved away from a fair discussion of existing issues,” Fomin said.

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Lorne Cook contributed to this report from Brussels.

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