KYIV, Aug. 7 – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday that Russia has been showing "some willingness" to start talking about a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.
Tillerson made the comment after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a visit to the Philippines.
After the meeting, the Russian diplomat announced that the Trump administration was sending its new special representative for Ukraine negotiations to Moscow for talks.
Tillerson said the U.S. has been deliberate about coordinating with all the parties involved in the crisis. He says that's to avoid the perception the U.S. is trying to cut a side deal that would undermine any group's interests.
Tillerson said the U.S. has deep differences with Russia including on Ukraine, but that it's not a good idea to "just cut everything off on one single issue."
He says the U.S. and Russia still have important national security issues to discuss.
Tillerson also said the U.S. will respond by Sept. 1 to Russia's move to force a major reduction in American diplomatic staff. Tillerson said he told Lavrov the U.S. still hasn't decided how it will respond. He says he asked Lavrov "several clarifying questions" about the act of Russian retaliation in response to new sanctions passed by Congress.
Russia said recently it was forcing the U.S. to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755 people. But there's been confusion because the U.S. is believed to have far fewer than 755 American employees in Russia.
The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine last month have vowed to go ahead with a peace plan for eastern Ukraine.
Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, who the U.S. special envoy to the Ukraine peace talks on July 7, said Sunday Russian aggression is to blame for violence in eastern Ukraine, where people are dying in what should be seen as a "hot war" rather than a "frozen conflict.”
On a visit last month to the Ukrainian-held town of Kramatorsk, 690 km (430 miles) southeast of Kiev, Volker said he would prepare a set of recommendations on how Washington can better engage with the peace process.
"This is not a frozen conflict, this is a hot war, and it's an immediate crisis that we all need to address as quickly as possible," he said.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia went into freefall after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent outbreak of a pro-Russian insurgency in the eastern Donbass region. Ukraine accuses Russian of sending in its own soldiers and military equipment, which Moscow denies. (ap/ez)