Kerry on Ukraine: ‘Hope’ for Peaceful Solution

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-03_fa409a2729.jpgState Dept photo (PARIS) -- After an exhaustive day of talks with his European counterparts on resolving tensions in Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry had little to show for it, but struck an optimistic tone. “I’d rather be where we are today, than where we were yesterday,” he said, adding that he “hopes” Wednesday’s discussions with foreign ministers from France, the U.K., Ukraine and Russia will lead to a peaceful solution.

Kerry said he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would go back and consult with their respective bosses, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has flatly denied the presence of additional Russian troops in Crimea.

But Kerry didn’t spare Russia from tough talk, saying, “Russia made a choice. We have clearly stated we believe it is the wrong choice.”

Kerry also urged Russia to welcome international human rights monitors into Crimea — but Russia has made it difficult for unarmed inspectors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to gain access to the region.

Kerry said it was important for the European Union, Ukraine and Russia to resolve tensions by “coming together as a community of nations” — although he did not announce any new measures that the EU and United States might collaborate on.

The EU has so far refrained from imposing comprehensive sanctions on Russia, in part because European countries depend heavily on Russia as a trade partner.

Kerry said he would continue his conversation Thursday with Lavrov in Rome.

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