Russia says US Secretary of State John Kerry to visit Sochi Tuesday

AFP , Monday 11 May 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at Riyadh Air Base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, traveling from Djibouti, Djibouti, Wednesday, May 6, 2015 (Photo: AP)

US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks on Tuesday amid tensions with Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, a Russian official said.

"His visit is expected," an official told AFP on condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement by the foreign ministry.

The foreign ministry declined to comment, only saying it would release an official statement at a later point.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to spend this week at his summer residence in Sochi.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP he could not immediately say whether the Russian president would host Kerry for talks.

Separately, the state RIA Novosti news agency, quoting a diplomatic source, said Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov were set to discuss the Ukraine crisis as well as Syria, Iran and Yemen.

"Kerry's visit to Russia is very symbolic," the diplomatic source was quoted as saying.

"He cancelled his visit many times and finally decided to come. This will not be a breakthrough meeting but it is very important."

The source added that the US diplomat's upcoming talks in Sochi was a sign that Russia was open to cooperation.

"We never clam up, we are open and are ready to discuss everything," the source said.

Kerry's visit would come after US President Barack Obama skipped Russia's celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in what was widely seen as a snub over Moscow's meddling in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel too ducked out of attending the Red Square military parade on May 9 but visited Moscow on Sunday to pay tribute to the Soviet dead and hold talks with Putin.

Putin has brushed off the Western snub and refused to budge on Ukraine.

At the same time he has signalled his willingness to mend ties with Brussels and Washington amid hopes in Moscow that tough Western sanctions could be lifted or eased.

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