Kerry-Lavrov rapport smoothed path to Syria deal

Kerry-Lavrov rapport smoothed path to Syria deal
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands after making statements following meetings regarding Syria, at a news conference in Geneva September 14, 2013. The United States and Russia have agreed on a proposal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, Kerry said on Saturday after nearly three days of talks with Lavrov.

GENEVA - The deal between the United States and Russia on Syrian chemical weapons was due in no small part to the labours of foreign policy veterans with contrasting styles: Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

While their bosses, presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, get on poorly and can stoop to point scoring, the two ministers have what diplomats like to call "a good working relationship."

"We've had our differences here and there on certain issues," Kerry said of recent tensions that have brought US-Russian ties to some of their lowest points since the Cold War.

Throughout it all, "Sergei Lavrov and I have never stopped talking," Kerry told a news conference on Saturday when he announced the Syria agreement after nearly three days of round-the-clock negotiations.

The pair have helped keep the US-Russia relationship from hitting even worse lows as Moscow and Washington argued not only over Syria but also about American fugitive spy contractor Edward Snowden and human rights in Russia, US officials say.

Just 10 days ago, Putin publicly called Kerry a liar for suggesting that Syrian rebels were not dominated by radical Islamists.

To smooth things over, Lavrov apologised - or at least explained - to Kerry in a phone call, a senior State Department official said. The Kremlin got a bad translation of the secretary of state's remarks, Lavrov told Kerry.

The Geneva accord to take away Syria's chemical arsenal leaves major questions unanswered, including how to carry it out in the midst of civil war and at what point the United States might make good on a threat to attack Syria if it thinks President Bashar al-Assad is reneging.

But it was a rare common effort between Moscow and Washington and the product of the most significant direct US-Russia diplomacy on a global crisis in years.

The Syria agreement "shows how important it is for us to go beyond those things ... some people try to make them as obstacles in our relations, some suspicions or concerns that are created artificially," Lavrov said on Saturday when asked whether the United States and Russia might again try to "reset"their relations.

After the Russian wound up his long-winded answer, Kerry, a former US senator, teased him: "I was just thinking Sergei, you could be a senator."

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