Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to London to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Friday to try to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine before a planned vote on a referendum in its Crimea region on Sunday.
“President Obama has asked me to leave tomorrow evening and fly to London to meet with Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Friday, and I will do that,” Kerry told a House Appropriations subcommittee while testifying about the State Department's budget Wednesday afternoon.
“So we will offer certain choices to Foreign Minister Lavrov, and to President [Vladimir] Putin through him and to Russia, with hopes, and I think the hopes of the world, that we will be able to find a way forward that defuses this and finds a way to respect the integrity and sovereignty of the state of Ukraine,” he added.
Kerry, however, warned that that the U.S. and its allies' interests are not best served by isolating Russia when it comes to negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program, on the issue of Syria or Russia's assistance with Afghanistan, where Moscow has allowed the U.S. access through Russian territory for troop and supply movements.
“But we will do what we have to do if Russia cannot find a way to make the right choices here,” Kerry said. “And our job is to try to present them with a series of options that are appropriate in order to try to respect the people of Ukraine, international law and the interests of all concerned.”
After Kerry made the comments White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked whether it was appropriate for Kerry to meet with his Russian counterpart considering that the Obama administration has previously said it would only do so if Russia showed signs of reversing course.
Asked by ABC News' Jonathan Karl whether the U.S. had “concrete evidence that Russia is softening its position” as a prerequisite for face-to-face talks, Carney side-stepped the question.
“We’ve made clear to the Russians that we’re open to further dialogue and we want to see concrete evidence” they will help de-escalate, he said.
He said Friday's London meeting provided an opportunity for Kerry to “make clear that there is a way out of this diplomatically and peacefully that Russia can avail itself of.”
“There are already costs associated with Russia here… and there will be greater costs if Russia continues down this path,” he said.