WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who was in Saudi Arabia with President Obama, is flying to Paris on Saturday "in advance of a to-be-scheduled meeting" within the next few days with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to a State Department spokeswoman.
Kerry's decision comes after Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a phone call Friday that the two top diplomats would meet to discuss a U.S. proposal to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine stemming from Russia's armed annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
Putin initiated the call to Obama, who was in Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah. Obama told Putin that a diplomatic resolution was possible "only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," the White House said. Obama and U.S. officials have expressed concern about Russian troops massed on Ukraine's eastern border.
Kerry and Lavrov will meet to discuss the U.S. response to a "working document" the two officials have been forging to try to avert a more serious confrontation between the two historic superpowers, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
According to the State Department, Kerry and Lavrov have exchanged views on "general elements" that could lessen tensions between East and West, including "international monitors, pullback of Russian forces and direct Russia-Ukraine dialogue — supported by the international community."