Kerry: Western ministers dodged 'family photo' with Russian envoy at climate talks


U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry attends a meeting ahead of COP27 climate summit in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo October 3, 2022. REUTERS/Justin Makangara

KINSHASA (Reuters) - U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said on Tuesday some Western ministers avoided a so-called family photo of participants at climate talks in Kinshasa because they were uncomfortable with the presence of Russia's representative.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shattered relations with the West, complicating international efforts to cooperate on global crises like climate change.

All top-level participants were meant to pose for the picture on Monday after the start of the three-day event in the Congolese capital - the last chance for countries to discuss strategies before the COP27 climate summit in Egypt in November.

Some European delegates were notably absent from the flag-decked stage. Of those who attended, dozens of dignitaries, including Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and U.N. Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, waited for over 10 minutes before the photo was taken without the absentees.

"They didn't want to show up for the picture," Kerry said when asked about the apparent no-shows. He is in Kinshasa for the talks but also did not join the photo.

It was not clear exactly how many delegates chose to skip the shoot, but an official with the British delegation confirmed envoy Alok Sharma was among them.

An EU official also confirmed its envoy had not joined the photo and would do the same at similar photo opportunities at COP27.

"I don't know if a big decision was made. I do know that all the ministers of these countries were very troubled by the presence of the Russian. Russia is not a country that is treated exactly like others at the moment," Kerry told reporters.

Kerry said delegates' sudden camera-shyness would not affect negotiations: "The photo is the photo, but the work at COP, it continues."

Russian climate envoy Ruslan Edelgeriyev, who stood at the far end of the back row for the picture, told Reuters he had not noticed anyone refusing to join the shoot due to his presence.

However, he added, "if we discuss international conflicts instead of following the agenda of a particular conference, we will not achieve the result that the conference was meant to bring about.

"Wasting time discussing matters irrelevant to climate change will get us nowhere and will benefit no one," he said in comments shared on Whatsapp.

(Additional reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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