Putin, Obama in ‘brief meetings’ at APEC summit

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a family photo shoot for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon)
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama are continuing their personal interaction at the APEC summit in Beijing, the Kremlin has confirmed. With relations between Moscow and Washington strained, the two have chosen to communicate out of public view.

The Russian and American presidents have finally talked to each other behind the scenes of the APEC summit, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, informed.

“Putin and Obama continue communicating on the sidelines of the forum,” Peskov told journalists on Tuesday.

“Putin has talked to President Obama several times. They talked briefly, yet touched on the issues of bilateral relations, Ukraine, Syria and Iran,” Peskov told journalists.

The first encounter they had on Monday was hardly more than a brief greeting.

“There was no conversation,” Peskov said. “Actually, they greeted each other – there was a short contact on the sidelines of the event we were talking about.”

“Obama and Putin had a ‘brief encounter’ during APEC summit events on Monday night, but did not have time to cover issues,” an anonymous high-ranking US official told RIA Novosti.

Later the two presidents exchanged a couple of phrases at the ceremony when all the dignitaries at the summit take a group photo in national costumes of the country hosting the event – China.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (L-R), Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, his wife Peng Liyuan and U.S. President Barack Obama arrive for a dinner hosted by the Chinese President at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing, November 10, 2014. (Reuters / Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA Novosti / Kremlin)

On the eve of the summit, the White House has said there are no plans for personal meeting between Obama and Putin at the Beijing APEC summit, or at the ensuing G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.

Tensions between the two countries became more apparent after the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West and the suspension of Russia from G8 in March over the crisis in Ukraine.

The US, a staunch supporter of the new regime in Kiev, has been accusing Russia of supporting rebels in the Ukraine’s east and thus fanning the conflict there. Russia has denied any involvement, apart from offering political advice and humanitarian aid.

The two leaders had no direct communication between mid-July, when the Malaysia MH17 flight crash occurred in eastern Ukraine, until the beginning of August, when Obama phoned Putin. In that conversation the Russian president called the sanctions imposed on Russia counterproductive. Since then there has been no official contact between the two leaders.