Kerry flying to Paris in hopes of Lavrov talks

AFP , Saturday 29 Mar 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry made a last-minute change of plans on Saturday to fly to Paris with the aim of setting up talks with his Russian counterpart on the Ukraine crisis.

After leaving Riyadh early on Saturday, the top US diplomat had been due to fly home to Washington via a refuelling stop in Ireland, but decided mid-flight to go to Paris instead.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called his US counterpart Barack Obama to say he was interested in discussing a US proposal on the table to resolve the standoff over Ukraine.

Obama instructed Kerry to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as soon as possible.

Kerry would travel to Paris on Saturday "in advance of a to-be-scheduled meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov early next week in Europe," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters travelling with the chief US diplomat.

"Secretary Kerry will also remain in close touch with Ambassador (Martin) Indyk and his negotiating team on the ground in Jerusalem and Ramallah in the event he needs to go back to the region from Paris in advance of NATO."

Lavrov said on Saturday that Russia had no intention of ordering its armed forces to cross over the Ukrainian border, and insisted that the divisions between Moscow and the West were narrowing.

Recent contacts had shown the outlines of a "possible joint initiative which could be presented to our Ukrainian colleagues," Lavrov told Russian state television.

Kerry is also due to attend NATO meetings in Brussels on Tuesday and then travel to Algeria and Morocco for his first visit to the northern African nations as secretary of state.

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