US wants progress on Ukraine peace deal after Russia diplomatic flurry19 may 2015, 14:51
US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland called on Monday for concrete progress on a frayed Ukraine peace plan after a flurry of diplomacy with Russia over the crisis rocking the ex-Soviet state, AFP reports.
Nuland was in Moscow for talks with senior Russian officials that rounded out a week of high-level diplomacy which saw her boss John Kerry jet in to push President Vladimir Putin on implementing the February peace deal.
The talks have sparked faint hopes of an improvement in the shattered ties between Washington and Moscow, with the United States taking a more active role in seeking to keep the Ukraine deal mediated by France and Germany on track.
Clashes between government forces and pro-Russian rebels -- who Kiev and the West say are backed by Russia -- have rumbled on at strategic flashpoints across Ukraine's conflict zone despite the February truce deal signed in Minsk.
Nuland said talks were now focused on getting a full ceasefire implemented, as well as moving onto further steps in the peace plan including negotiating elections in the rebel territories and securing Ukraine's porous border with Russia.
"We particularly dug in on how the United States might be able to support the process of Minsk implementation," Nuland told journalists in Moscow.
Nuland called for those responsible for implementing the ceasefire -- Ukraine, Russia and international mediators -- to "dig down deeply now and start really implementing the security, economic, political and humanitarian aspects of Minsk".
"We talked about concrete steps," Nuland, who flew in from Kiev, said without elaborating.
Russia's deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin called for "the launch of a real dialogue" between Kiev and the separatists after the meeting with Nuland.
"An agreement was reached on continuing Russian-American contact on the Ukraine issue," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kerry's visit to Russia was the highest-level US trip to the country since the Ukraine crisis erupted.
While the two sides are also looking to find some common ground on Syria and Iran's nuclear programme, there is, however, little genuine hope of an imminent mending in their shattered relations.