US ‘looks forward to engaging with Russia’ on Ukraine: Washington

Russian officials have agreed to sit with American officials next month among US accusations against Moscow of preparing to invade neighboring Ukraine, the US National Security Council (NSC) has said.

The United States “looks forward to engaging with Russia” for a Strategic Security Dialogue on Ukraine on January 10, an NSC spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday to The Hill.

The spokesperson also said that NATO is planning to hold a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on January 12. A NATO official confirmed the meeting.

“President Biden’s approach on Ukraine has been clear and consistent: Unite the alliance behind two tracks: deterrence and diplomacy. We are unified as an Alliance on the consequences Russia would face if it moves on Ukraine. But we are also unified in our willingness to engage in principled diplomacy with Russia,” the NSC spokesperson said.

Earlier, Russia’s foreign minister said talks on a list of security guarantees Moscow wants from Washington regarding the rubbing points in relations with NATO over Ukraine are scheduled to be held between Russian and American officials next month.

Sergei Lavrov said in an interview live-streamed on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website on Monday that the talks would take place immediately after Russia’s New Year holidays. The first official working day of 2022 in Russia starts on January 10.

Russia said a day earlier that it had received and was considering a separate NATO proposal to commence negotiations on Moscow’s security concerns on January 12.

Earlier in the month, Russia unveiled a list of security proposals it wants to negotiate with the US, including a pledge that NATO would give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.

The talks come amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West with several Western media outlets reporting that Russia had been massing troops near the border with the objective of a large-scale military invasion of the country. Russia denies the allegations, saying it is free to move its troops around within its own borders and that its military buildup is in response to increased NATO activity near its borders.

Russia says Moscow does not seek an armed conflict with Ukraine but “has all the capabilities in place to ensure a full military and technical response to any kind of provocations that might unfold around us.”

“When we sit down to talk, Russia can put its concerns on the table, and we will put our concerns on the table with Russia’s activities as well. We will adhere to the principle of ‘nothing about our Allies and partners without our Allies and partners, including Ukraine,’” the NSC spokesperson said.

“There will be areas where we can make progress, and areas where we will disagree. That’s what diplomacy is about,” he continued.

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