Obama, Putin Meet on Sidelines of G20 Summit

Posted June 18th, 2012 at 2:45 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Monday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Mexico, with the two leaders' views far apart on the worsening bloodshed in Syria.

Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, has so far resisted Washington's efforts to broker an end to the violence in the Mideast nation. Troops supporting President Bashar al-Assad have attacked anti-government protesters over the last year, killing thousands, with Russia shielding the Syrian leader from United Nations sanctions sought by Western and Arab states opposed to his 11-year rule.

The American and Russian leaders held their talks at the seaside resort of Los Cabos, as leaders of the world's leading economies gathered for a two-day summit. It was their first meeting since Mr. Putin's return to the presidency after his election last month.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin have had a prickly relationship of late, with the U.S. leader pointedly delaying a customary congratulatory call to his Russian counterpart after the election. Later last month, Mr. Putin stayed home rather then attend a Group of Eight meeting Mr. Obama hosted at his presidential retreat near Washington.

Ahead of the summit meeting, U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said he expected Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin would “be able to sustain cooperation in some areas,” while disagreeing on others. But he pledged the U.S. would “work to try to bridge those differences.”

President Obama was also set to meet Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a new effort to seek bolder European action to resolve the governmental debt crisis in the 17-nation euro currency bloc. Even as Greek leaders moved to form a new coalition government after Sunday's parliamentary elections, there were new concerns about Spain's surging borrowing costs.

The G20 host, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, said the world leaders need to firm up their $430 billion in pledges for a new account the International Monetary Fund created in April as a eurozone rescue fund for its debt-ridden countries. Some countries have yet to fully commit money for the bailout account.

After meeting with President Obama, the Mexican leader called his decision last week to halt the deportation of some young illegal immigrants from the U.S. an act of “valor and courage.” Conservative critics of Mr. Obama in the U.S. have called the decision a form of providing amnesty for the youths who were brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents.

Recent gatherings of the G20, with leaders from the world's leading economies, have been consumed with details of the European financial crisis, amid fears that an economic collapse on the continent would quickly spread across the globe.

But representatives of some non-governmental agencies are also pressing the heads of state to not overlook the plight of poor, non-industrialized countries, where most of the world's neediest people live.