The Swiss venue for the US-Russia summit is appropriate not only for its neutrality and grandeur — it has the added bonus of being perfectly divisible, giving both camps an equal number of rooms and no chance for one-upmanship, a protocol point-person said Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden are meeting Wednesday at the La Grange villa in Geneva, a plush 18th-century mansion surrounded by a tree-lined park overlooking the lake.
The classical villa’s symmetrical design means it can be split down the middle and both leaders can have access to exactly the same amount of space.
“Each delegation gets the same number of rooms,” Marion Bordier Buschi, Geneva’s deputy head of protocol, told RTS public radio.
“Fortunately, the villa is perfectly symmetrical. This allows everyone to have exactly the same number of rooms and the same number of square metres. It’s true that that was the advantage of the villa.”
Biden arrived in Geneva on Tuesday ahead of the one-day summit, while Putin will be flying in shortly before the talks begin.
The villa, which was in the hands of patrician families of Geneva before being bequeathed to the city in 1917, was a whirlwind of activity ahead of the summit.
The paint was touched up and the chandeliers polished, while antique furniture was rearranged to make way for the two presidents.
The scene is set in the showpiece library: two wooden armchairs clad in red leather have been placed either side of a globe, with some of the 15,000 books as a backdrop.
Frantic work to rearrange the furniture is still ongoing — though some things can only be shifted and installed with the agreement of both parties.
– Finicky on furniture –
“We still have a few interior design issues that remain unresolved. I think that will carry on right up until the last minute,” said Bordier Buschi.
“There are two or three small furniture rearrangements — technical equipment that must be put in place in agreement with the two delegations.”
The protocol chief said both sides could make requests, but they could only be adhered to if the other side agrees.
“I cannot accept them if the other delegation has not approved it,” she said.
“There’s nothing extravagant about the requests.
“It’s furniture, coffee breaks, earphones for the meeting. Things like that.”
Instead, the luxury Eaux-Vives hotel-restaurant — the neighbouring plush villa surrounded by a park, will provide some simple catering.
“It’s the Eaux-Vives restaurant that will prepare little things to eat, and coffee, tea, water, but it’s very simple. There is no meal. It’s really just for breaks and refreshments,” Bordier Buschi said.