Thursday, September 5, 2013

Emboldened Mr Putin changed the G20 agenda – which was originally focused on trade and tax matters – to include a dinner discussion about Syria

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments

... His move brought the conflict to the heart of the summit, possibly in the hope that Mr Obama would be seen to have no majority support for military strikes on the Assad regime, which he favours in retaliation for the chemical attack on the Ghouta suburb of Damascus on 21 August.

Mr Putin – who has supported President Assad throughout the two-year civil war – was judged to have won the first round of his showdown with Mr Obama. A number of leaders sounded cool, and in some cases hostile, to the US President’s call for action. China’s Deputy Finance Minister, Zhu Guangyao, told a briefing: “Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on oil prices.”

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is at the G20, added: “A political solution is the only way to end the bloodshed in Syria.” Even the Pope appealed for G20 leaders to “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution”, writing in a letter to Mr Putin that there should be a renewed commitment to seek … a peaceful solution … unanimously supported by the international community”.

The emerging positions left the Russian President looking pleased as he waited outside the ornate Constantine Palace to greet guests who together represent two-thirds of the world’s population. None of the guests was more eagerly anticipated than Mr Obama, who emerged from of his armour-plated limousine and extended a stiff handshake. Looking stern at first, Mr Obama praised the beauty of the palace and then grinned for the cameras as he and Mr Putin shook hands vigorously. The Russian President smiled, but the 20-second exchange was anything but warm. The White House went out of its way to say that Mr Obama would not be holding any one-on-one sessions with the Russian leader at the summit.
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