Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov got caught in an embarrassing "hot mic" situation earlier this week while meeting his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, in a dangerous slip of the tongue that comes even as Russia is trying to expand its diplomatic presence in the region.
Lavrov met with al-Jubeir on Tuesday to discuss the Syrian crisis and possible diplomatic resolutions to it, reports the Turkish Today's Zaman on Thursday.
All was going smoothly until Lavrov was left waiting for part of the discussion to be translated into Arabic at a certain point, as captured on footage from the conference.
While waiting he checked his cell phone, jotted down some notes, adjusted his glasses, rubbed his forehead – and then quietly said "f***ing morons" in a comment picked up by his microphone.
Just who the foreign minister's curse was directed at soon become the topic of debate, but during the conference the statement passed by without remark. Lavrov's spokeswoman claimed she did not hear him make the comment, and said the talks with al-Jubeir went well.
Significantly, the two ministers earlier disagreed over what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's role would be in a potential diplomatic solution to the internecine conflict; Russia has been a key backer of Assad and the Saudis have firmly opposed him.
"I cannot comment on what's not related to the essence of the talks," Lavrov's spokesperson said of the curse. "Interjections, noises, sneezing – I think it's unnecessary to comment on lip reading. Everyone hears differently."
A photographer for Reuters present at the meeting said Lavrov apparently was cursing at cameramen who started taking pictures as he raised his hand to fix his glasses – the minister is known to have a temper for photographers.
But former US Ambassador Michael McFaul joined in the social media storm following the incident, and gave credence to the idea that Lavrov's harsh words were directed at al-Jubeir.
In response to a suggestion that Lavrov was cursing his counterpart, McFaul wrote on Twitter: "Really? And he used to accuse me of undiplomatic language."