US, UK, Ukraine urge direct Kyiv-Moscow talks

The United States, Britain, and Ukraine have called for direct talks between Kyiv and Moscow, saying they are crucial to resolving the conflict in Ukraine’s Crimean region.

The foreign ministers of the three countries, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, issued a joint statement Wednesday after talks in Paris.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was also in Paris at the time of the talks by the so-called Budapest agreement group, but did not attend the meeting. Under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, the United States, Britain and Russia agreed to respect Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in return for Kyiv’s nuclear disarmament.

In the statement, Washington, London, and Kyiv also called for international observers to be deployed in Ukraine immediately, especially in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border.

The State Department said Kerry spoke privately with Lavrov and urged him to engage in talks with his new Ukrainian counterpart, interim foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsia.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said earlier the United States and Britain are pursuing “every diplomatic opportunity” to bring Russian and Ukrainian officials into contact with each other.

Hague said there will be “costs and consequences” for Russia if diplomatic progress is not made.  He said Russia should understand that its pattern of intervening in countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova will change its relationship with European nations.

(Photo of William Hague: Nato)