Top US, Russia diplomats hold 'frank' and 'honest' talks, reach no breakthroughs

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Top diplomats from the U.S. and Russia held talks in Geneva on Friday, with no significant progress despite both sides remaining positive in the face of escalating tensions. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke for around 90 minutes about Ukraine. Blinken called the meeting “frank and substantive,” while Lavrov said the meeting had proved “a useful, honest discussion.” 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, listens as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

But the talks did not result in any immediate action or decisions between the two sides. The two diplomats will speak again after the U.S. submits a formal response to Russian demands next week. 

“I can’t say whether or not we are on the right path,” Lavrov said. “We will understand this when we get the American response on paper to all the points in our proposals.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. 
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Officials remained skeptical of any substantive progress from Friday’s talks, with diplomats in the past week saying that they found recent talks fruitless. Both sides also left the door open to further talks between U.S. President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“If we conclude and the Russians conclude that the best way to resolve things is through a further conversation between them, we’re certainly prepared to do that,” Blinken said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy answers during his online interview for media in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Russia had issued a list of demands in December, including a promise to not admit Ukraine as a member of NATO and to withdraw troops from the region even as Russia continued to amass troops near the Ukraine border in the new year, increasing fears that Moscow would order an invasion of its neighbor. 

The U.S. has continued to issue warnings of sanctions and other “severe” punishments should Russia follow through on any invasion, but the lack of a united response from Western allies has proven troubling at best. 

Blinken said ahead of the talks that he hoped to prove that diplomacy and dialogue remain the best option to resolving the situation. 

“We’re committed to walking that path, to resolving our differences peacefully and I hope to test that proposition today,” Blinken said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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