By CNN's Jill Dougherty, Jamie Crawford and Gregory Wallace
Secretary of State John Kerry's Tuesday call to his Russian counterpart has gone unanswered for nearly a week after North Korea tested a nuclear device.
Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and top diplomats with the three other countries – South Korea, China and Japan - that had been in negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program. But Kerry was not connected to Lavrov, who was in Africa for a conference and had "a very overloaded work schedule," according to Russian government spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. He said that the United States did not make additional attempts to call Lavrov.
Russia is an ally of North Korea and a member of the six nations that have held talks over the North Korean nuclear program. The U.S. and North Korea also find themselves on opposite sides of the situation in Syria and have sparred over Russian restrictions on adoptions between the two countries.
It is not the first time Moscow has not returned calls from the State Department: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had difficulty getting through to her counterpart when she was in the post.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday that “the Foreign Minister has not yet chosen to return the call” to Kerry, but that Kerry was “relaxed about this” and not concerned.
“It's not all that unusual in our recent experience that when Foreign Minister Lavrov is traveling, he does not always engage in international phone calls on other subjects,” she told reporters. “I refer you to the Russians (for more information) as to why that may be, but we are open to talking when he is.”
On Friday, she said the two still had not talked, and “If they (Russian diplomatic officials) are too busy or otherwise engaged, the offer stands, and we'll continue to do other diplomacy.”
Lukashevich, the Russian government spokesman, responded to reporters that, “The comments by Ms. Nuland do not reflect what actually happened in organizing a telephone conversation between the heads of the external relations agencies.”
He was apparently highlighting that after the Tuesday, February 12, call, “we received no further request from the State Department either on the 13th or the 14th.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday a meeting between Kerry and Lavrov could "probably" be scheduled for March, but that his boss' February schedule was too busy for a meeting.
“We have no clear idea for now what the Russian foreign minister's and U.S. secretary of state’s schedules will be like and where they could cross," he told the Russian-based news agency Interfax.
The North Korean nuclear test this week followed a December rocket launch. The country is said to be planning additional launches this year in an effort to pressure negotiations.