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Kerry Calls for Face-to-Face Meeting Between Russian, Ukraine Envoys

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for face-to-face talks between Russia and Ukraine, as part of a push to ease the military crisis in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

Kerry spoke Wednesday in Paris, after he and British Foreign Secretary William Hague met separately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and with Ukrainian interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia. Kerry said "intense [multi-national] discussions" would take place later this week.

The Western envoys and Deshchytsia later met and called for the immediate deployment of international observers in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, to monitor the thousands of Russian troops that entered the majority-Russian-speaking peninsula last week.

Lavrov did not attend that meeting.

But Kerry said he spoke privately with Lavrov and urged him to engage in talks with the Ukrainian minister. Western diplomats were quoted as saying Lavrov left Paris without having met Deshchytsia.

For his part, Kerry said he had not expected such a meeting to occur Wednesday.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the alliance will review its cooperation with Russia, while increasing its engagement with Ukraine's civilian and military leadership. He also said NATO has suspended planning for a joint mission with Russia to protect a U.S. ship that will destroy Syrian chemical weapons.

In Paris, British Foreign Secretary Hague said there will be "costs and consequences" for Russia if diplomatic progress is not made. He said Russia must understand that its pattern of intervening in countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova will change its relationship with European nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying he does not want the "political tension" between Russian and Ukraine to detract from economic cooperation between the two countries.

Western leaders have been calling for a de-escalation of tensions sparked when Russian forces moved into Crimea late last week. The West has suggested the crisis could be resolved if Russia pulls back its forces to their bases on the Black Sea and allows in international monitors.

Foreign Minister Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia cannot order pro-Russian armed forces in Crimea, which he described as "self-defense" forces, back to bases, because they are not Russian forces. He said allowing international monitors into Crimea is not Russia's decision, but the decision of Ukrainian and Crimean authorities.

Crimea is set to hold a referendum on its future status on March 30. Ethnic Russians make up nearly 60 percent of the peninsula's population.

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