Four-way talks on the crisis in Ukraine ended with an accord aimed at taking the first steps toward de-escalating the conflict, after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hopes he won’t have to send in troops.
The agreement was announced after talks in Geneva today between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief. Their session lasted more than six hours, longer than scheduled. Kerry said Russia, which the U.S. and its European allies accuse of stoking the conflict, must start implementing the deal within days.
“The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens,” the four said in a joint statement. “All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation, or provocative actions.”
The U.S. and its European allies have threatened to ratchet up sanctions on Russia, their former Cold War enemy, if it doesn’t act to calm the situation in eastern Ukraine. Pro-Russian separatists have seized government buildings and NATO estimates 40,000 Russian troops are massed on the border.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he remains skeptical about concrete results coming from the agreement, while adding that there remains a possibility that diplomacy can de-escalate the situation.
“I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point,” Obama said at a White House news conference. “We’re not going to know whether, in fact, there’s follow-through on these statements for several days.”