Ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine; US Refuses to Concede to Kremlin's Demands
Fighting has been raging for years between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.
After eight hours of talks in Paris, all parties including Russia, Ukraine, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the US, agreed to observe a ceasefire in the east of Ukraine, Reuters reported on Wednesday, 26 January.
A build-up of Russian troops close to the border of eastern Ukraine in the last few weeks has raised serious concerns about Russia planning military invasion of Ukraine.
The meeting in Paris, however, was actually about the ongoing conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.
Nevertheless, the conflict in eastern Ukraine is connected to the larger crisis involving NATO and the US, who are worried that the Russians will use any escalation in fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and separatists as a casus belli to invade Ukraine.
The Paris negotiations ended with representatives of the four countries in the meeting – Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany – agreeing to an "unconditional observance of the ceasefire" and deciding to meet again in Berlin in two weeks.
An aid to French President Emmanuel Macron said that while the meeting was not directly about the larger crisis, "the question was whether the Russians wanted to signal a thaw."
"In the current circumstances, we received a good signal", he added.
US Refuses to Budge
Although its delegation was not present at the meeting, a message was delivered by the US via a letter to the Russian government, in which it stressed on a "serious diplomatic path", and refused to concede to its demand regarding Ukraine's potential membership of NATO.
Additionally, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shot back at his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov a few hours after the latter threatened "retaliatory measures" if the Kremlin demands weren't heeded to.
Talking about Ukraine and NATO, he said that "without going to the specifics of the document, I can tell you that it reiterates what we said publicly for many weeks, and in a sense for many, many years. That we will uphold the principle of NATO's open door. There is no change. There will be no change."
The document that was sent by the US to Russia would be kept confidential because "diplomacy has the best chance to succeed if we provide space for confidential talks", Blinken argued.
Russia has amassed more than 1,00,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, sparking fears of a war that has the potential to drag NATO and the US into it.
(With inputs from Reuters and The Guardian.)
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