Kerry urges birthday boy Lavrov to ‘respect his elder’
As the pair sat down in Moscow for a day of high-stakes talks on conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East, Kerry noted that Lavrov had turned 66 on Monday and added: “I hope it will bring you extra wisdom, in our conversation.”
The Russian foreign minister, who was to take his guest to the Kremlin later in the day to meet President Vladimir Putin, responded to the 72-year-old American in kind: “Thank you. But if wisdom is measured by the number of birthdays, I can’t catch up with you.”
To which Kerry retorted: “As long as you respect your elders.”
Russia and the United States are rivals, often opponents, on most of the great international issues of the day, but Kerry and Lavrov have nonetheless formed a close working relationship and are in telephone contact almost every week.
Together, they formed the International Syria Support Group, a 17-nation body pushing for a negotiated end to the Syrian civil war, working together despite Moscow’s support for strongman Bashar al-Assad.
But, US officials say, Kerry knows that Putin and not his minister makes all the key Russian policy decisions and the highlight of Thursday’s meetings will be the visit to find out whether the Kremlin is ready to let Assad leave power.