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Diplomacy

Kerry and Lavrov meet to hash out diplomatic Ukraine solution

In an effort to find a diplomatic solution to the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine, US Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting his Russian counterpart in Paris. The meeting was arranged on short-notice.

Meeting at the Russian ambassador's residence in Paris on Sunday, John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov met behind closed doors. Prior to their meeting, Kerry also spoke with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on the phone. Kerry is planning to hold a press conference later on Sunday following his talks with Lavrov.

The meeting was called at the last minute as Kerry stopped in Ireland to refuel his plane on the way back to Washington from the Middle East on Saturday. Instead, he flew to Paris for Sunday's meeting on a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

The Kremlin has massed 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine's eastern borders, according to Kyiv. US officials have put the number at 40,000.

The troop buildup has raised concern in the West that Russia might seek to intervene militarily on behalf of Russian-speaking communities in mainland Ukraine. But Lavrov on Saturday dismissed such speculation.

"We have absolutely no intention and no interests in crossing the Ukrainian border," he told Russian state television.

Earlier in the week, Kerry proposed a framework to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. The proposal called for the deployment of international monitors, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine's eastern borders, and direct talks between Kyiv and Moscow.

Lavrov said on Saturday that Russia and the US were "getting closer in our positions."

On Friday, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for nearly an hour on the phone and agreed to have their top diplomats meet to discuss steps aimed at resolving the crisis. Putin reportedly initiated the phone call.

mz/dr (dpa, AP, AFP)

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