Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday held out the prospect of an easing of sanctions against Moscow, using his first visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis erupted to stress the importance of the two countries cooperating in the international arena.
At a joint press appearance with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after hours of talks in Sochi, Kerry linked the removal of U.S. and European Union sanctions to full implementation of Ukraine ceasefire agreements negotiated in Minsk, Belarus last September and again in February.
“If and when Minsk is fully implemented, it is clear the U.S. and E.U. sanctions can begin to be rolled back,” he said.
Kerry made no mention in this regard of the situation in Crimea, whose annexation by Russia in March 2014 triggered the first punitive measures put in place by the U.S., including visa bans and asset freezes on senior Russian figures and sanctions against a key bank.
Crimea was not mentioned by either Kerry or Lavrov during the briefing. The U.S. maintains it does not recognize Russian control of the strategic peninsula, but the Minsk agreements of Sept. 2014 and Feb. 2015 focused on other areas of eastern Ukraine, with Crimea not addressed.
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