Obama, Putin meet as Syrian deal stalls
United States (U.S.) President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met yesterday for the first time in nearly a year, after talks at the weekend between the two countries on a deal to reduce violence in Syria stalled.
After meeting for 90 minutes with Mr. Putin on the sidelines of an international summit of major economies, Mr. Obama said the U.S. and Russia “haven’t yet closed the gaps” to a deal and that distrust between the two countries has prevented them from finalising one.
A White House official described the final differences as “technical” and related to implementation of the agreement, The Wall Street Journal said.
An agreement, which U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, have been negotiating, would increase cooperation between Washington and Moscow in Syria and implement a ceasefire to provide humanitarian relief.
“It was constructive,” the White House official said of the meeting. “And we’ll see in coming days whether on Syria we can reach a near-term agreement. If we cannot get the type of agreement we want, we will walk away from that effort.”
The two leaders also discussed “cyber issues,” but the official didn’t say whether Mr. Obama raised possible Russian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
U.S. officials had planned to announce a Syria deal on Sunday, but then abruptly said some last-minute issues that they didn’t specify arose.
The U.S. official said “there was some backsliding” by Russia during talks over the last two days, but the two sides are now at the same place in talks that they were at the start of the negotiations in China on Saturday.
On Sunday, Mr. Obama expressed skepticism that the U.S. and Russia could reach a deal, and if so, that Mr. Putin would abide by it over the long term. The U.S. has entered into agreements with Russia on Syria and Ukraine, only to have them unravel.
Before yesterday, Obama and Putin last met in November on the margins of the Paris climate conference.
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