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“Peace” talks open in Geneva But tension over Kiev remains high

from Paolo Valentino, our correspondent in Geneva

Eight hours of negotiations between the American and Moscow delegations. Sherman: We need time. Riabkov: There are no reasons for an escalation

For the moment, the United States and Russia agree to disagree , agree on their disagreement. Eight hours of talks, plus a private dinner on the banks of Lake Geneva the previous evening, confirm that Washington and Moscow remain far from any prospect of satisfying each other’s security concerns. But in the “city of peace” some reassurances, the envoys of the White House and the Kremlin have exchanged it and above all they have decided that the game goes on. One of the most significant is that Sergey Riabkov, deputy foreign minister and head of the Russian delegation, said the Kremlin has no plans to invade Ukraine: “There are no reasons for an escalation scenario.”

In front of the media, Riabkov defined them as “difficult, long, very professional, concrete, profound talks, without attempts to avoid the most controversial points”. And he admitted that “he had the impression that the American side takes our proposals very seriously and studied them carefully ».

But Wendy Sherman, who leads the US team, immediately made some things clear by specifying that some of the proposals formulated by the Kremlin “are not a beginning for us”. And he explicitly cited the double Russian demand that Ukraine never join NATO and that both the Alliance and Washington downsize the level of their military cooperation with Kiev. “We will admit no end to the open door policy, which has always been central to NATO. And we will not give up cooperating with sovereign countries who want to work with us ». Touching a very sensitive key for Europeans, who insist on being part of the global deal between the US and Russia on Europe, Sherman added that “We will not take any decisions on Ukraine without Ukraine and on Europe without Europe”.

However, both protagonists invited caution on the outcome of the meetings, which Sherman defined rather “a discussion to understand each other better and understand the respective priorities, but not exactly a negotiation”. «The tone of the talks makes me more optimistic – Riabkov said – but the main questions remain open and we do not see the American understanding of the need for a decision that satisfies us ”. As the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had anticipated, the Americans tried to make concessions on disarmament, starting with the deployment of intermediate nuclear missiles, after the mutual denunciation of the INF Treaty or the possibility of putting limits on the size and duration of the military maneuvers of the two countries, as well as improving the transparency regime. But the Russians insist on a comprehensive approach, which includes both disarmament and political-strategic issues.

The Geneva talks are the first stage of a week of dialogue, which will continue in Brussels tomorrow with the revived NATO-Russia Council and Friday in Vienna in the framework of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It is not clear what the follow-up will be, if, as it is probable, no agreement will emerge in the short term. But according to Sherman, “we need to give time to diplomacy.”

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