POST TIME: 31 December, 2021 09:08:51 AM
Biden, Putin emphasise diplomacy ahead of call over Ukraine crisis

Biden, Putin emphasise diplomacy ahead of call over Ukraine crisis

US President Joe Biden and his Russian  counterpart Vladimir Putin emphasised the need for diplomatic solutions ahead  of their latest phone call Thursday aimed at defusing tensions surrounding  the Ukraine conflict.

   The call comes after Moscow earlier this month presented Western capitals  with sweeping security demands, saying NATO must not admit new members and  seeking to bar the United States from opening new bases in ex-Soviet  countries.

   The call, which will begin at 2030 GMT, also comes ahead of talks between  representatives of the two rivals in Geneva in January, with Washington  saying it expects to discuss the Ukraine conflict and Moscow insisting its  security demands be contended with.

   Biden, who is at his home in Delaware for the New Year's holiday, will  stress in his call with Putin that Washington is looking for a "diplomatic 
path" out of the crisis, a senior administration official told reporters.

   "But we are also prepared to respond if Russia advances with a further  invasion of Ukraine," Biden will tell Putin, the official said, adding that 
Washington remained "gravely concerned" about the military build-up and  wanted to see the Russian forces return "to their regular training areas."

   In a holiday message to Biden hours before the call, Putin said he is  "convinced" that "we can move forward and establish an effective Russian-
American dialogue based on mutual respect and consideration of each other's  national interests".

   - Conversational mood - 

   His spokesman Dmitry Peskov then told reporters that Moscow is "in the  mood for a conversation".

   "We believe that only through talks is it possible to solve all the  immediate problems that we have in abundance between us," Peskov said, adding  that the call was Putin's initiative.

   The call will be the second in less than a month between the two leaders,  with Biden in early December warning Putin of "severe consequences" if  Russian troops invaded Ukraine. 

   Washington has led the charge in raising the alarm over Russian troop  movements near its ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine, where the West says Moscow  has massed around 100,000 forces ahead of a possible winter invasion.

   Putin has denied the allegation and accused the West of stoking tensions,  saying that NATO's eastward expansion is a threat to Russian security. 

   Ukraine, which has since 2014 fought a pro-Russia insurgency in its east  that has claimed over 13,000 lives, has repeatedly said it wants to join the  US-led security alliance.

   But Russia considers ex-Soviet states to be within its sphere of  influence, and has grown increasingly insistent that the only way out of the 
crisis is the West accepting its demands that would redraw Europe's security  architecture.

   At the talks in Geneva next month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov  has vowed that Moscow will take a "hard line" aimed at avoiding concessions.

   - US support for Ukraine -

   His ministry on Thursday said that delegations for the talks will be led  by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Deputy Secretary of State  Wendy Sherman.

   The United States has called some of the Russian positions non-starters,  but said it is willing to talk and will also bring up its own concerns.

   Ahead of the US-Russia talks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke  by telephone on Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

   "I was assured of full US support for Ukraine in countering Russian  aggression," Zelensky tweeted afterward. 

  Blinken also spoke separately to his counterparts from Britain, France and  Germany on "coordination to deter any further Russian aggression against  Ukraine", State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

   The Biden administration has vowed to take all actions in lockstep with  its European allies.

   Following the Geneva talks, Russian delegates will meet with delegates of  the NATO alliance ahead of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co- operation in Europe, a key Cold War forum that brings together Moscow and the  West.

   "We will determine further steps depending on the readiness of the United  States and NATO for substantive talks regarding our concerns," Russian  Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday.