KIEV, July 9 - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday Russia must take the first steps to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine, adding that Washington's primary goal is the restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity, Reuters reported.
On a maiden official visit to Ukraine, Tillerson also said the United States would explore ways of changing the status quo in the Ukraine crisis, and said Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election still impeded better relations with Moscow.
Tillerson's visit to Ukraine followed a first face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
President Petro Poroshenko hailed US involvement and reiterated Tillerson's commitment to seeking a negotiated peace deal.
"Most of all we want peace in Ukraine. We firmly adhere to our commitments," he said.
Poroshenko was especially complimentary of Tillerson's decision last week to appoint a special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, former US ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, who is widely considered to be a hawk on Russia.
Volker will oversee US efforts to press Ukraine and Russia to fully comply with the Minsk Agreement, the peace accord that was reached in early 2015 in the capital of Belarus by the leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia but has yet to be implemented.
Under the Obama administration, the US had taken a hands-off approach to Minsk, allowing the Europeans to take the lead.
With Ukraine on the agenda, Putin earlier met with his counterparts from France and Germany, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, on the fringes of the G20 summit in Hamburg.
Macron said he had no ready solution to the crisis, but that the three countries had had a "good discussion" about it.
"If I had a solution in my pocket I would have already used it and shared it with my friends," the French president said in a video posted on his Facebook account.
"We know how complicated the situation is on the ground, so we are negotiating."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Saturday there was an understanding between the three countries that "effective measures should be taken, which would lead to real ceasefire on the frontline and to ensure military hardware withdrawal.” (rt/ez)