Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart met Thursday in Rome but appeared to make little headway toward resolving the crisis over Russia’s incursion into the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.
“For now we cannot tell the international community that we have an agreement,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the meeting, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.
Lavrov was also quoted as saying that the United States was complicating matters by moving to cancel the visas of Russians who it says are undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Kerry, speaking to reporters later in the day, said that he had made suggestions for Lavrov to take to President Vladimir Putin and that Kerry and Lavrov had “agreed to stay in close touch in order to see if there is a way forward, try to get to the negotiating table with the parties necessary to be able to stabilize this.”
The United States wants Russia to pull its troops back to their barracks in Crimea, allow international monitors into the region and respect Ukrainian elections scheduled for May.
“President Obama has been clear that we cannot allow Russia or any country to defy international law with impunity,” Kerry said. “There’s no place in the community of nations for the kind of aggression and steps that we have seen take in Crimea and Ukraine in these last days.”
Kerry also echoed President Barack Obama’s assertion earlier in the day that Crimea would break international law if it held a referendum on whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.