WASHINGTON, June 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was not aiming for additional sanctions on Russia when he declared on Thursday that Moscow has only "hours" left to persuade insurgents in eastern Ukraine to lay down their arms, the State Department said.
Spokeswoman Marie Harf was trying to clear the air after Kerry challenged Russia to move "in the next hours" to help disarm the separatists who have been fighting the Ukrainian troops since early April.
"We are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they're moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and to begin to become part of a legitimate process," Kerry told reporters in Paris after meeting with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.
"The secretary wasn't outlining specific timing for additional sanctions but underscoring the need that this needs to happen quickly," Harf told reporters at a daily news briefing.
She explained that the week-long ceasefire, declared by new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, is set to expire on Friday. "So that's partly what was driving the secretary when he was talking about timing," she said.
Leaders of the European Union will meet in Brussels on Friday, with possible additional sanctions against Russia being a topic of discussion.
"We've been very clear that we remain prepared to impose additional sanctions, including sectoral, should circumstances warrant," Harf said. "We have in place the infrastructure to do this very quickly if we want to."
She added that Washington would act on its own if necessary, as European nations are divided over more sanctions against Moscow.
In a phone conversation on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the truce in eastern Ukraine to be extended.
Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma led first round of talks on Monday with the Russian ambassador, rebel leaders and European officials in the eastern city of Donetsk, after some rebel groups agreed to reciprocate by Friday the ceasefire declared by Poroshenko.
French FM Fabius meets U.S. Secretary of State Kerry on Ukraine crisis
PARIS, June 26 (Xinhua) -- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday.
In the statement released after the meeting, Kerry said he and Fabius believed that Russia should call for the disarmament of militias in eastern Ukraine. Full story
Putin, Merkel discuss need to extend truce in Ukraine
MOSCOW, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Thursday for the truce in Ukraine to be extended.
The conversation focused on the establishment of a verification mechanism for the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, an extension of the truce, the creation of a contact group and the release of detainees, the Kremlin press service said. Full story