America, Russia agreed to keep working to ease tensions over Ukraine

Washington and Moscow’s top diplomats on Friday agreed to keep working to ease tensions over Ukraine, with the United States promising a written response to Russian security requirements next week and not ruling out a presidential meeting.

As fears grew that Russia could invade its pro-Western neighbour, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed warnings of severe Western reprisals as he met for 90 minutes with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.

The Russian foreign ministry said later that in his talks with Blinken, Lavrov had vowed “the most serious consequences” if Washington kept ignoring Moscow’s security demands.

Blinken described the high-stakes talks as “frank”, with Lavrov also voicing hope for a lowering of the temperature between the former Cold War foes.

Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, denying it plans to invade but demanding security guarantees, including a permanent ban on the country joining NATO.

Blinken said that Washington will share written ideas with Russia next week in which it will also make clear its own positions.

“We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are now on a clear path in terms of understanding each other’s concerns and each other’s positions,” Blinken told reporters.

“We anticipate that we will be able to share with Russia our concerns and ideas in more detail in writing next week and we agreed to further discussions after that,” he added.

Speaking separately, Lavrov told reporters: “Antony Blinken agreed that we need to have a reasonable dialogue, and I hope emotions will decrease.”

He added that another meeting could be held between the two, but that it was “premature” to start talking about another summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, who met in Geneva last June.

Blinken, however, did not rule out fresh talks between the presidents after Biden twice warned Putin by telephone of consequences for any Ukraine invasion.

“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.

Biden bluntly assessed on Wednesday that Putin is likely to “move in” on Ukraine and warned of a “disaster for Russia”.

A senior US official, speaking to reporters later Friday, said Washington was preparing to send proposals to the Russians and was in close coordination with “our allies”.

“The United States does not plan a public release,” she said.