Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Russia Conveys N. Korea's Desire for Direct Talks with US

Russia Conveys N. Korea's Desire for Direct Talks with US

North Korea is open to coming to the table for direct talks with the USA over its nuclear ambitions, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told his American counterpart Rex Tillerson on Thursday.

In remarks at an OSCE session, Tillerson said that the USA would "never accept Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea", and warned that sanctions related to the matter would remain in place until Moscow returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.

"We can have differences in other arenas, in Syria, we can have differences in other areas", he said.

"We have been clear with Russia that we can not return to business as usual in the NATO-Russia relations, as long as Russia continues its illegal occupation of Ukraine", he said at a press conference at NATO headquarters. "People are still dying every day", he said.

The United States and its allies want peacekeepers to have a broad mission to protect about 600 OSCE monitors now on the ground and investigate cease-fire violations throughout eastern Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the OSCE conference that "all the responsibility is with Ukraine" as far as violence in the east was concerned. He referred to the Donets Basin region of eastern Ukraine.

One observer, an American, was killed in April 2017 in eastern Ukraine when his vehicle hit a landmine.

"The issue that stands in the way is Ukraine", Tillerson said.

Tillerson also accused the Russian military of actively fighting in eastern Ukraine, saying they are "arming, leading, training and fighting alongside anti-government forces".

"We will never accept Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea", Tillerson said. "Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russian Federation returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine", he said.

"In eastern Ukraine, we join our European partners in maintaining sanctions until Russian Federation withdraws its forces from the Donbass (region) and meets its Minsk commitments", Tillerson said.

Lavrov used the OSCE meeting to lambaste the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Tillerson's diagnosis of the problem was striking in its downplaying of other key disputes, particularly Russia's meddling in the US presidential election. He called for confidence-building measures to ensure cybersecurity, "rather than shaking the air with unsubstantiated allegations, without a single fact".

He and Lavrov met on the sidelines of the conference, though both ignored reporters' questions when the meeting began.

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