Russians end silence, call Kerry back

Russia's foreign minister finally returned Secretary of State John Kerry's phone call from last Monday over the weekend, the State Department said.

Kerry had been trying to reach Sergei Lavrov ever since North Korea tested a nuclear device last Monday evening. The two finally connected over the weekend, ending a week of speculation that Russia had been snubbing the new secretary of State.

“They had almost a half an hour conversation,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday. “Key subjects were both the situation in Syria, and responding to [North Korea's] provocations.”

Asked if Lavrov was the one who made the call, Nuland said only that staff in both countries found a time that worked for both of them.

“I think there was a sense, on both sides, that after [Lavrov] returned to Moscow that we needed to get this done,” she said. “And I think he got back Thursday night Moscow time and Friday was jammed for both guys so they committed to do it on the weekend.”

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Nuland had laid the blame on the radio silence on Lavrov's trip to Africa. The foreign minister, likewise, failed to immediately respond to a phone call from Hillary Clinton regarding the situation in Syria while he was traveling early in 2012.

“As I said earlier in the week, frankly it’s not unusual in our recent experience that when Foreign Minister Lavrov is far from his capital, he doesn’t return phone calls until he gets home,” she said Friday. “As I’ve been saying all week, we’re making it clear that we would like to talk if they want to. If they are too busy or otherwise engaged, the offer stands, and we’ll continue to do other diplomacy.”

She said Kerry and Lavrov would try to see each other during Kerry's upcoming trip.

“They have agreed that they want to meet and it's now up to staffs to find a place and a time for them to meet,” she said. “If it works on the trip, that's great. If not, then we'll keep working on soon thereafter as we said at the end.”

The week of radio silence came as President Obama is hoping to negotiate further reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals with President Vladimir Putin. Relations between the two countries remain frosty on a number of issues, notably Russia's human-rights record, its continued support for Syria's Bashar Assad and the recent ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.