The PJ Tatler

Kerry Finally Gets his Russian

Shortly after an inauspicious start for the new secretary of State in Russian relations, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with John Kerry on Feb. 26.

The State Department announced earlier today that Kerry and Lavrov will meet in Berlin to “discuss a wide range of bilateral and international issues.”

From Feb. 24 to March 6, Kerry will travel to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

Kerry previously tried to contact Lavrov after taking over from Hillary Clinton, ringing the foreign minister twice (or, according to Moscow, just once), but was told “the conversation could not be held” because Lavrov was on an African tour.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said today the conversation would include Syria as “very much a central topic.” Lavrov has renewed his offer to host mediation talks but Moscow has also been supporting Bashar al-Assad.

“As the secretary and foreign minister Lavrov have been discussing, we want to work together, as we’ve been saying for months and months now, to encourage the parties to sit down and begin a political transition process,” Nuland said. “The Russians have certain kinds of influence. We have certain kinds of influence. It’s really gonna be up to the Syrians where they want to do this, whether they think Moscow’s offer can be helpful. From our perspective, wherever they can agree to meet, and in whatever formation works for them, that would be a good start and that would be the beginning of a political track.”

Moscow has indicated, though, that it wants to hammer Kerry about the Jan. 21 death of a Russian 3-year-old boy adopted by a Texas family. Russia said the boy was beaten and given psych drugs; Texas authorities are still investigating the circumstances of his death.