Obama and Putin hold talks at UN

28th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin shook hands Monday at United Nations headquarters and went into their first substantial bilateral talks in two years.

Earlier, the pair had given rival speeches before the UN General Assembly, in which Obama denounced Putin for supporting Syria's "tyrant" ruler and the Russian blamed the rise of the Islamic State on failed US interventions in the Middle East.

The pair's greeting was perfunctory -- a brief handshake with barely perceptible smiles in front of two Russian and two US flags.

Earlier, they had been photographed staring frostily at each other as they exchanged an awkward toast at a UN lunch.

US and Russian relations plunged to their lowest level since the Cold War last year when Russia intervened in Ukraine, seizing Crimea and annexing it to its territory while allegedly sponsoring separatist rebels on the mainland.

They have worsened further in recent weeks with a clash over how to handle the civil war in Syria, where Putin is backing President Bashar al-Assad's government forces and Obama has demanded the strongman step down to allow a political transition.

The pair have not had a substantial face-to-face meeting since a bilateral get-together on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in 2013, although they had a brief frosty encounter at the APEC meeting in Beijing last year.

© 2015 AFP

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