Austria's Kurz offers to host US-Russia meeting in Vienna

Photo: AP Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a meeting at the federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria, 22 March 2021.

In the rising tensions between the United States and Russia, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has offered his country's support as host for a possible meeting between the countries' leaders.

"We are already in contact with the Russian and the US side, if there really should be such a meeting," Kurz said in an interview for the "Morning Briefing" podcast hosted by German journalist Gabor Steingart.

In a telephone call this week, US President Joe Biden had suggested to Russian leader Vladimir Putin to meet for a summit in a third country, preferably in Europe during summer.

Kurz said his role in a possible meeting should not be overestimated as he is not playing a mediator.

"We have always traditionally had good contact to the East. We are neutral, and thus perhaps also a welcome interlocutor for Russia," Kurz said.

Earlier, Finland had already declared its willingness to organize a possible meeting. A summit between Putin and former US president Donald Trump already took place in Helsinki in 2018.

Whether Putin will accept the invitation remains open. Shortly after it was issued, Washington imposed new sanctions on Russia, and Moscow reacted with a travel ban on high-ranking US government officials.

Kurz also warned against an escalation in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Kurz said he did not accept the Russian side's statement that troop movements along the Ukrainian border were a normal exercise.

"The humanitarian situation is extremely bad," he said, but added that every stronger confrontation on the contact line would increase the suffering.

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