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'No decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine'

RAW VIDEO: after meeting with his Russian counterpart in Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry says both sides discussed ways to "de-escalate the security and political situation in and around Ukraine”.

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Paris: The United States and Russia have failed to reach a deal on Ukraine but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry have been "constructive" and will continue.

After four hours of discussions in Paris on Sunday, Mr Lavrov said the two parties had presented their plans for a de-escalation of the crisis but did not agree on what had caused it.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris. Photo: AFP

Mr Kerry called for Russia to pull back its forces from the borders of Ukraine, and said that any talks on the country's future must include Kiev's leaders. He  told a news conference that the US made clear it still considered Russian actions in Crimea to be "illegal and illegitimate".

"We will not accept a path forward where the legitimate government of Ukraine is not at the table. This principle is clear. No decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine," Mr Kerry said. He added that "any real progress in Ukraine must include a pullback of the very large Russian force that is currently massing along Ukraine's borders".

Mr Lavrov reiterated Russia's belief that federalism in Ukraine would be key to finding a solution.

"We expressed divergent positions on the reasons for the Ukraine crisis," Mr Lavrov said. "Nevertheless we agreed on the need to find points of agreement to reach a common position in order to resolve this crisis diplomatically," Mr Lavrov said.

"Both sides made suggestions of ways to de-escalate the security and political situation in and around Ukraine," Mr Kerry said.

"We have to find a consensus, a compromise between the regions of Ukraine," Mr Lavrov said. "It is us up to the Ukrainians to resolve these questions. The authorities in Kiev have to set equal conditions for each region to participate in a process of constitutional reform.

"We agreed [with the US] to work with the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people in the broadest sense to enable measures to be taken in the following priority areas: assuring the respect of minority rights, language rights, the dismantling of irregular forces and provocateurs and the achievement of an inclusive process of constitutional reform."

Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov were seeking to hammer out the framework of a deal to reduce tensions over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, with Western leaders considering broader sanctions against Russia that would target vital sectors of its economy including its mainstay oil and gas industry.

They had hoped to build on a phone call on Friday between presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, according to senior US officials.

Mr Kerry said he had also raised with Mr Lavrov "strong concerns" about the presence of Russian troops on the Ukraine border, which he said created a climate of fear and intimidation. Washington says there are 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine's borders.

America's top general in Europe was sent back early from a trip to Washington in what the Pentagon on Sunday called a prudent step given Russia's "lack of transparency" about troop movements across the border with Ukraine. General Philip Breedlove, who is both NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the head of the US military's European Command, arrived in Europe Saturday evening. He had been due to testify before US Congress this week.

The United States also announced it was pledging $US10 million ($10.8 million) to bolster border security in Moldova at a time when concerns are rising about divisions within the country over a trade deal with Europe and Russia's intervention in neighbouring Ukraine.

AFP, Reuters