UPDATES WITH MORE COMMENTS FROM BLINKEN, LAVROV
By Peter Kenny and Elena Teslova
GENEVA / MOSCOW (AA) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday that any invasion of Ukraine by Moscow's forces will be met with a swift response, but he also said they agreed to continue talking.
"Essentially, if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine's borders, that's a renewed invasion. It will be met with a swift and severe response," said Blinken, and added he would report back to President Joe Biden.
"We didn't expect any major breakthroughs to happen today. But I believe we are now on a clear path in terms of understanding each other's concerns and each other's positions."
Blinken said after meeting with European allies and partners, their clear message is that they are united in seeking to "find a way forward through diplomacy and dialogue."
“If Russia wants to begin to convince the world that it has no aggressive intent toward Ukraine, a very good place to start would be by de-escalating by bringing back and removing these forces from Ukraine’s borders," Blinken said.
- ‘Interim talks’
In a separate news conference, Lavrov said Russia expects a written response next week from the US on Moscow's recent security proposals that it submitted.
He described Friday's meeting as "interim talks" while reiterating Russia's demand for NATO not to expand further eastward.
"NATO works against Russia," he said, adding that this was why Moscow opposes the alliance's expansion.
Lavrov said that Blinken sought to put Ukraine at the forefront of negotiations, but in the end, "realized it is necessary to focus on Russia's proposals."
The Russian foreign minister also refuted accusations that his country is preparing to invade Ukraine, saying that Moscow had never voiced any threats to Kyiv.
"I would like to remind one more time to everyone that Russia, nowhere, not once, from the mouth of any of its official representatives threatened the Ukrainian people," Lavrov said, adding such allegations are "not true."
He said the US said it would offer a written response to Russia.
- Separatists in east Ukraine
The Russian foreign minister also refused to "speculate" on the possible recognition of east Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.
Lavrov said Donetsk and Luhansk agreed to abandon their desire to separate from Ukraine when they signed the Minsk Protocol in 2014.
Both Blinken and Lavrov agreed that a presidential meeting might also occur, but the Russian minister said it must be well-prepared.
The two met at the historic President Wilson Hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva, where many tense negotiations involving world peace have taken place in past decades.
Russia is accused of having amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border, a move that has prompted concerns by the West that Moscow could be planning another military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin has denied Western accusations of a looming invasion, saying its forces are there for exercises.
In February 2014, Russian forces entered the Crimean Peninsula, with President Vladimir Putin formally dividing the region into two separate federal subjects of the Russian Federation the following month.
Turkiye, the US, and the UN General Assembly view the annexation as illegal.
According to the UN, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's Donbas region has seen more than 13,000 people killed since 2014.
The region is one of several sources of friction between Russia and Ukraine.