Russia does not rule out Putin-Obama G20 sideline talks on Syria
Putin aide says Russian and US presidents will have ‘opportunity to discuss current issues’ at summit in St Petersburg
Barack Obama’s description of Vladimir Putin as being like “a bored kid at the back of a classroom” has reportedly infuriated the Russian leader but global political developments may force the two leaders to exchange views on Russian soil at the G20 summit. Photograph: AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service
Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov has said it could not be ruled out that the Russian president and Barack Obama will “have the opportunity to discuss current issues” in the sidelines of the G20 summit, which takes place in St Petersburg later this week.
The Russian news agency Itar-Tass yesterday ran a similar report from its Washington bureau citing a “high-ranking source” in the US administration who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mr Obama cancelled a proposed bilateral meeting with Mr Putin after Russia granted temporary asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden, who had spent a month in the transit section of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in the course of which the US requested his extradition. Mr Obama’s description of Mr Putin as being like “a bored kid at the back of a classroom” has reportedly infuriated the Russian leader but global political developments may force the two leaders to exchange views on Russian soil.
The “current issue” most likely to bring about a discussion, however brief, between the two men is the situation in Syria where, if Mr Obama’s plans for military action will be carried out if he gets authorisation from Congress.
Until the weekend Mr Putin has held back from commenting on Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons but on Saturday in the far-eastern city of Vladivostok he suggested the attack in Damascus which killed more than 1,400 people was a “provocation” by those who wanted to get the support of powerful international forces, especially the US.
While he did not offer any concrete evidence for this claim the language he used was considerably milder than that expressed by other Russian politicians on the subject.
Deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin had described the western powers as “monkeys with hand grenades” and Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, had called for the Nobel committee in Oslo to withdraw Mr Obama’s Peace Prize if he launched an attack on Syria.
Mr Putin on the other hand, while remaining critical of the American position, refrained from using inflammatory language, suggesting that if the US had proof that the government of Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons it should give it to the UN inspectors and to the UN Security Council.