Lavrov says Russia open to talks with West

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a session of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to approve laws on annexing the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions into Russia, in Moscow, Russia Oct 3, 2022. (RUSSIAN STATE DUMA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS/FILE PHOTO)

LONDON/WASHINGTON – Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow was open to talks with the West on Russia's special military operation in Ukraine, a claim Washington dismissed as "posturing" because Russia has continued to strike Ukrainian cities.

In an interview on state television, Lavrov said Russia was willing to engage with the United States or with Türkiye on ways to end the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but had yet to receive any serious proposal to negotiate.

Lavrov said officials, including White House national security spokesman John Kirby, had said the US was open to talks but that Russia had refused.

"This is a lie," Lavrov said. "We have not received any serious offers to make contact."

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State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington had "very little confidence" that Russia was making a legitimate offer to talk because Lavrov's comments came within hours of Russian missile strikes that killed civilians in Ukraine.

We have repeatedly said that we never refuse meetings. If there is a proposal, then we will consider it.

Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister, Russian

"We see this as posturing," Price said during a regular press briefing, adding that Washington didn't see this as "a constructive, legitimate offer to engage in the dialogue and diplomacy that is absolutely necessary" to see an end to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Talks to end the conflict would ultimately have to be between Ukraine and Russia, he added.

Lavrov also said Russia would not turn down a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden at a mid-November summit of the Group of 20 in Indonesia, and would consider the proposal if it receives one.

"We have repeatedly said that we never refuse meetings. If there is a proposal, then we will consider it," Lavrov said.

Commenting on the possibility that Türkiye could host talks between Russia and the West, Lavrov said Moscow would be willing to listen to any suggestions but could not say in advance whether this would lead to results.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would have an opportunity to put proposals to Russian President Vladimir Putin when both visit Kazakhstan this week, he added.

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Lavrov noted that direct talks between Russia and Ukraine had broken down at the end of March. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ruled out talking to Putin after Russia claimed the annexation last month of four Ukrainian regions that it partly occupies.