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Kerry And Russian Diplomat Talk Crimea In Paris

MELISSA BLOCK: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

Yesterday, he was in Ukraine. Today, it's Paris. Secretary of State John Kerry is logging a lot of miles these days, trying to find a diplomatic solution to the unfolding crisis in Crimea. In Paris, he met with Russia's foreign minister. Kerry said the discussions were substantive. Diplomatic sources tell NPR the results were inconclusive. But at least the talking had begun.

Our own Michele Kelemen is traveling with the secretary and joins us from Paris. And, Michele, inconclusive talks between Kerry and the Russian foreign minister, but most of the attention in Paris seems to be on a meeting that didn't happen. Tell us about it.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: That's right, Audie. You know, Kerry brought Ukraine's foreign minister, Andrei Deshtitsa, from Kiev to Paris, and all day seemed to be trying to get him together with Lavrov. The first attempt was when Kerry called a meeting of the countries that signed this non-intervention pact with Ukraine back in 1994 - that's when Ukraine gave up that Soviet-era nuclear stockpile. And Kerry opened the meeting at the U.S. ambassador's residence saying one country was regrettably not fair. That, of course, was Russia.

Kerry later went into his meeting with Sergei Lavrov at Russia's foreign - at the Russian ambassador's residence here and then both of them went to this hastily arranged meeting at the French foreign ministry on Ukraine. We watched Lavrov walk in. And then, soon after, Ukraine's foreign minister, who we got to know on the plane last night, was led upstairs while Lavrov and the others were downstairs.

And we kept waiting for some sort of diplomatic choreography for the two to meet. After all, they were in the same building. But it didn't happen. Lavrov left. And when we ask him if he met his Ukrainian counterpart, he said, who's that?

CORNISH: So what...

KELEMEN: You know, the Russians don't recognize this new government. And then when Deshtitsa left, he shrugged and said we'd have to ask Lavrov why they didn't meet.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, what did Secretary Kerry have to say? How did he explain this failure to bring the Russians and Ukrainians together?

KELEMEN: Yeah. He claimed that he had no expectation of a meeting, that he brought the Ukrainian foreign minister here because he wanted to be able to consult him and not just talk to Western European foreign ministers and Lavrov about Ukraine. He said it would have been inappropriate to make decisions with others about Ukraine without consulting Ukrainians. But, you know, having been on the plane with the foreign minister, we know certainly that he had that expectation.

CORNISH: The Russians and the U.S. have very different visions of what's been happening in Ukraine. And we know they're talking, but are they essentially talking past each other?

KELEMEN: It's interesting, Audie. You know, both Lavrov and Kerry came out of their meetings tonight using exactly the same phrase, saying they both wanted to normalize and stabilize the situation and overcome the crisis in Ukraine. But, really, they do seem to be talking past each other on what's actually happening.

The U.S. has been calling on Russia to pull its troops back to barracks in Crimea. Lavrov complains that - he claims that Russian troops at are their bases and that they've just taken extra security measures. And he says Russia can't give orders to those who he calls self-defense forces in Crimea.

CORNISH: Michele, do you get the sense that the U.S. is worried that what's happened in Crimea could act as a model for Russian behavior in other contentious areas?

KELEMEN: Well, you know, there is a concern that this rift between the U.S. and Russia now could have an impact on other issues. But on the other hand, Kerry has been sounding increasingly annoyed with Russia when it comes to Syria, for instance, saying that Russia has been increasing its support for the Assad regime. And, of course, the peace talks are going nowhere. He met in Paris today with the international envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, but neither man would say anything when I asked them if this dispute over Ukraine is affecting that diplomacy.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Michele Kelemen in Paris, traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry. Michele, thank you.

KELEMEN: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.