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Russian soldiers at the contested Belbek airfield in Crimea on March 4, 2014
Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME

Secretary of State John Kerry hinted on Wednesday that the crisis in Ukraine might be inching closer to a diplomatic resolution after he met with Russia’s top diplomat.

“We agreed today, both sides and the Ukrainians also, that we are all better served if this can be resolved through dialogue,” Kerry told reporters in Paris after meeting there with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be restored and must be respected,” Kerry said.

While signaling that progress may have been made, Kerry cautioned that no one expected “that we were suddenly going to resolve [the Ukraine crisis] this afternoon.”

“I want us to be realistic,” he said. “This is hard, tough stuff.”

Kerry’s comments came after his first meeting with Lavrov since Russian forces sparked an international crisis by seizing control of the Crimea region of Ukraine last week.

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