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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Stockholm, on Dec. 2.JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had a “serious, sober and business-like” meeting, in which Blinken conveyed Washington’s desire to avoid conflict with Russia over Ukraine, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

But Blinken also warned that Moscow would face sanctions in case of an invasion, the official said.

There was no concrete breakthrough in the talks to ease tensions between the West and Russia over troop deployments on Ukraine’s borders, but the two sides agreed to continue dialogue regarding Ukraine, the official said.

Not long after the meeting, Russia’s foreign ministry said it hoped a summit between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden would take place in the coming days, but that no date had yet been set, the Interfax news agency reported.

Blinken delivered the warning to Lavrov at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm, a day after declaring that Washington was ready to respond resolutely, including with hard-hitting sanctions, in the event of a Russian attack.

“The best way to avert the crisis is through diplomacy, and that’s what I look forward to discussing with Sergei,” Blinken told reporters before going into talks with Lavrov.

He said Russia and Ukraine should each fully implement their obligations under the 2014 Minsk peace process designed to end a war between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the east of the former Soviet republic.

Washington was willing to facilitate this, Blinken said, but “if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences”.

Lavrov told reporters before the meeting with Blinken that Moscow was ready for dialogue with Kyiv. “We, as President Putin has stated, do not want any conflicts,” he said.

Ukraine has become the main flashpoint between Russia and the West as relations have soured to their worst level in the three decades since the Cold War ended. Kyiv says Russia has amassed more than 90,000 troops near their long shared border.

Moscow accuses Kyiv of pursuing its own military build-up. It has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions it is preparing for an attack on Ukraine and has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it sees fit.

But President Vladimir Putin has also said Russia would be forced to act if NATO placed missiles in Ukraine that could strike Moscow within minutes.

Earlier Thursday before talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Blinken said NATO allies share an “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Kuleba tweeted that Ukraine, which is not a NATO member but seeks closer ties with the Atlantic alliance, was working with Western countries on a “comprehensive deterrence package including severe economic sanctions” to stop Russian aggression.

“The unwavering commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, its independence... that is a view that not only the United States holds but all of our NATO allies hold as well,” Blinken told Kuleba at their talks.

“That was very, very clearly evident in the conversations that we had over the last couple of days,” he added.

In a speech earlier at the OSCE meeting, Lavrov said that Moscow would soon put forward proposals for a new European security pact that he said he hoped would stop NATO from expanding further east. Lavrov said that Europe was returning to what he called the nightmare of military confrontation and said he hoped that Russia’s proposals would be carefully considered.

The Kremlin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then backed rebels fighting Kyiv government forces in the east of the country. That conflict has killed 14,000 people, Kyiv says, and is still simmering.

As well as Ukraine, other issues including cybersecurity and the Kremlin’s treatment of its critics have also helped drive relations between Washington and Moscow to post-Cold War lows.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns earlier this month raised the issue of Russian cyberattacks during a rare visit to Moscow, where he met high-ranking security officials, three sources told Reuters.

Another focal point for East-West tensions has been the refugee crisis on the borders between Belarus, a Russian ally, and NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

Western nations accuse Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of engineering the migrant crisis in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Minsk over its human rights record. Minsk blames the West for the humanitarian crisis.

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