Mar 05, 2014

By Jane Brown

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet face to face with Russia’s foreign minister in Paris today when the world’s top diplomats get together at 11am E-T. It would be the first conversation between the two since pro-Russian forces took control of Ukraine’s Crimea region.  The meeting was originally arranged to discuss the effect of the crisis in Syria on Lebanon, where more than a million refugees are now living.  But it is certain the Ukraine crisis will be a significant discussion point.  Speaking through a translator, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says he’s open to finding a solution.  “I don’t know how serious our colleagues are to the meeting in Paris.  We will see,” Lavrov commented through a translator.

Meantime in Washington, the Obama administration is offering Russian President Vladimir Putin a face-saving way out of Ukraine.  The key element of this is to allow international monitors to go into eastern Ukraine, to address those Russian concerns that ethnic Russians are being persecuted by ultra nationalists.  The White House says those claims aren’t true but you could put the monitors on the ground and this could be a guarantee that that kind of thing is not going on.  A spokesman for Prime Minister Harper says Canada supports the mission, and will work with allies to see how best to support it.  Canada has joined the U.S. in suspending all joint military activities with Russia.

In another development, Ukraine’s new prime minister, in his first interview since taking office, told The Associated Press that Crimea must remain part of Ukraine, but may be granted more local powers.  Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the AP Wednesday that a special task force could be established “to consider what kind of additional autonomy the Crimean Republic could get.”  The prime minister, approved by parliament on Feb. 27, denied a report that Ukraine was negotiating with the United States for deployment of U.S. missile defences in exchange for financial help.  “This is not true,” Yatsenyuk told the AP.  “We have no talks with the government of the United States of America on any kind of deployment of any military forces.”  President Putin says Russia has no intention of annexing Crimea, while insisting its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum later this month.



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