WASHINGTON, September 6, 2016 –President Barack Obama is wrapping up his final G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, the eleventh meeting of the Group of Twenty (G20), an international group of heads of states, finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s top economies.
Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for about 90 minutes at the summit, the first meeting of the two world leaders in nearly a year.
“Typically the tone of our meetings is candid, blunt … businesslike — and this was no different,” Obama told a press conference after the talks.
The Presidents met after Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed for the second time in two weeks to reach a Syria cease-fire deal. President Obama said that he and President Putin have instructed Kerry and Lavrov to keep working at their differences in order to reach “meaningful, serious, verifiable cessation of hostilities in Syria”, and to increase cooperation between Washington and Moscow, creating a cease-fire to provide humanitarian relief.
“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 White House official said.
President Obama acknowledged that the brief conversation with Putin did not open any new doors and said that a “gap of trust” between the two world powers hindered any negotiation talks.
Putin, speaking to reporters, said “We are up for a full-format recovery of relations with the United States,” indicating that he, and his government, would cooperate with the U.S. in combating Syrian extremists.
“We have had some productive conversations about what a real cessation of hostilities would look like that would allow us both, the United States and Russia, to focus our attention on common enemies,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference following the Group of 20 summit. “But given the gaps of trust that exist that’s a tough negotiation, and we haven’t yet closed the gaps in a way where we think it would actually work.”
Violence in Syria is escalating with ISIS carrying out bombings targeting government areas killing at least 40 persons according to the Syrian Arab News Agency.
Mosaab Khalaf, a member of the Aleppo city council, an opposition body. said that “This international policy has failed Syria’s humble people, tragically. The world calls for freedoms, democracy, human rights and equality, but all these slogans are just words written on walls.”
It's always seemed clear Obama and Putin do not like each other, but this death stare… https://t.co/dA4mnxsJRj
— Adan Quan (@aquandiary) September 6, 2016
While the White House hopes to reach an agreement on Syria, Russia continues to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who attacks the US-backed fighters that Russia and Syria claim are terrorists.
Relations with our Cold War enemy has been a central issue to the Clinton and Trump campaigns.
While most of the conversation focused on Syria and the Ukraine crisis, President Obama did discuss cybersecurity with the Russian leader but did not give any specifics on what was said.
“I will you tell you’ve had problems with cyber intrusions from Russia in the past and from other countries in the past,” Obama said. “We’re moving into a new era here and frankly, we’ve got more capacity than anybody both offensively and defensively.”
The President told Putin he did not to see an escalation of retaliatory cyber warfare like the “wild, wild west.”
President Obama is still hoping for a US-Russian partnership to tackle ISIS in Syria but has yet to find any common ground to get the ball rolling on that plan. While Obama does not expect a partnership to be formed soon, Putin was more optimistic and believed it could be formed in the next few days.
“I’m really hoping that this agreement can be reached and I have grounds to believe it could happen in the next few days,” “If it does, then we can say that our joint work with the United States in fighting terrorist organizations, including in Syria, will be significantly improved and intensified.”
Obama’s tense moment with Putin comes as he takes his final presidential tour of Asia.
In Hangzhou, the President’s first stop on Monday, he offered praise to Chinese President Xi Jinping for hosting the Group of 20 economic summit in China where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ruled for more than six decades. The CCP is criticized on the world stage for a wide range of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion. (Human Rights Watch)
The visit was marked by a series of frictions between the U.S. and China as the press claimed Obama was disrespected by China who failed to role out the red carpet, much less a staircase, for President to descend Air Force One:
Today the President is in the Philippines where President Rodrigo Duterete said he regretted cursing President Obama. The remarks were made by Duterete in response to what he felt were Obama’s lectures regarding humanitarian rights, warning Obama not to challenge him over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
“He regrets that his remarks to the press have caused much controversy,” it added. “He expressed his deep regard and affinity for President Obama and for the enduring partnership between our nations.”
President Obama decided to not attend a planned meeting with the Philippine president. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price reporting that the meeting with Duterte was off.
“President Obama will not be holding a bilateral meeting with President Duterte of the Philippines this afternoon,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said. “Instead, he will meet with President Park (Geun-hye) of the Republic of Korea.”
President Duterte, who took office June 30, has been under scrutiny over the more than 2,000 suspected drug dealers and users killed since he took office. Duterte, who has said that he is listening to his own people to determine his actions on the areas war on drugs, has said his foreign policy would not be based on his countries reliance on Washington.
A public break from the Philippines would put Obama in a tough position, given the Southeast Asian nation’s status as a longtime U.S. ally. The Obama administration has sought to compartmentalize by arguing that military and other cooperation won’t be jeopardized even if it detests the current Philippine leader’s tone.
Arriving in the city of Vientiane, Laos for the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to an area that was heavily bombed by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. The President said that the U.S. would provide the people of Laos an additional $90 million over the next three years to help clear unexploded ordnance, which has killed or wounded more than 20,000 people since the wars cessation.