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Ukraine will make decision on any negotiations with Russia: US’s Blinken

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Ukraine would decide on the timing and contents of any negotiation framework with Russia, according to a readout of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Phnom Penh on Saturday.

Blinken also discussed the United States’ unwavering commitment to assist Ukraine in mitigating the effects of Russia’s attacks on critical infrastructure as winter approaches, including accelerated humanitarian aid.

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“Secretary (Blinken) reiterated that the timing and contents of any negotiation framework remains Ukraine’s decision,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The Washington Post reported last week that the Biden administration was privately encouraging Ukraine’s leaders to signal an openness to negotiate with Russia and drop their public refusal to engage in peace talks unless President Vladimir Putin is removed from power.

The paper quoted unnamed people familiar with the discussions as saying that the request by American officials was not aimed at pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table, but a calculated attempt to ensure Kyiv maintains the support of other nations facing constituencies wary of fueling a war for many years to come.

During Saturday’s meeting, Blinken and Kuleba reaffirmed the importance of renewing an agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain via the Black Sea, before it expires next Saturday.

According to the United Nations, 10 million tonnes of grain and other foods have been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea initiative agreed in July, helping to stave off a global food crisis. Russia said on Saturday there was no agreement yet to extend the deal, repeating its insistence on unhindered access to world markets for its own food and fertilizer exports.

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