Smiles and snaps: Trump and Putin's del­i­cate diplo­matic dance

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL -

DANANG, Nov 11 ( AFP) - Talks be­tween Don­ald Trump and Vladimir Putin, a much- an­tic­i­pated box of­fice event at an Asia-Pa­cific sum­mit, were up in the air Satur­day as the lead­ers swapped warm greet­ings in Viet­nam but kept the world guess­ing on a for­mal meet­ing.

The ques­tion of whether the US and Rus­sian lead­ers will hold of­fi­cial dis­cus­sions on the side­lines of the APEC sum­mit in the re­sort city of Danang has added a layer of diplo­matic in­trigue to an event dom­i­nated by trade dis­cus­sions.

Trump's re­la­tion­ship with Moscow has haunted the first year of his pres­i­dency, with key for­mer aides un­der a US in­ves­ti­ga­tion for al­leged col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Krem­lin.

Overly am­i­ca­ble talks be­tween Trump and Putin would be an awk­ward sell for the White House as it de­nies any wrong­do­ing.

In­stead a del­i­cate diplo­matic dance has been on show, giv­ing glimpses of a warm re­la­tion­ship but no sub­stan­tive talks.

The two men have met in Danang three times since late Fri­day, when they posed for a photo side by side in loose-fit- ting blue shirts cus­tom made for the sum­mit.

They again warmly shook hands on Satur­day morn­ing as lead­ers sat down for talks and then briefly chat­ted as they walked to­gether to a podium for a “fam­ily photo” of at­ten­dees.

Moscow's top diplo­mat Sergei Lavrov also had a short meet­ing with his US coun­ter­part Rex Tiller­son.

Asked to give de­tails on their talks, Lavrov glibly replied “I can, but I wouldn't”.

Rus­sia has de­nied al­le­ga­tions of in­ter­fer­ing in the US elec­tion last year, won by Trump in a shock vic­tory.

Trump's for­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort and an as­so­ciate are un­der house ar­rest on charges in­clud­ing con­spir­acy to laun­der money, linked to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller into al­le­ga­tions that the cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia.

Yet the US leader also wants Rus­sian sup­port for his ef­forts to iso­late North Korea in a bid to re­strain its nu­clear am­bi­tions.

MADRID, Nov 11 (AFP) - A protest is ex­pected in Barcelona Satur­day call­ing for the re­lease of jailed sep­a­ratist lead­ers, the day after pro-in­de­pen­dence Cata­lan par­lia­men­tar­ian Carme For­cadell was freed on bail.

Separatists have called on sup­port­ers to match the an­nual turn-out of Cat­alo­nia's na­tional day, when hun­dreds of thou­sands gather in the city. The demon­stra­tion is due to take place from 17:00 (16:00 GMT).

For­cadell, the sacked speaker of Cat­alo­nia's par­lia­ment, left a prison near Madrid on Fri­day hours after sup­port­ers posted her bail of 150,000 eu­ros, end­ing her brief de­ten­tion.

Iraqi forces launch of­fen­sive to re­cap­ture last town in Is­lamic State con­trol

ERBIL, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Iraqi forces launched an of­fen­sive on Satur­day to cap­ture Rawa, the last re­main­ing town un­der Is­lamic-State con­trol, leav­ing the group's self-pro­claimed caliphate on the verge of com­plete de­feat.

The cap­ture of the town would mark the end of Is­lamic State's era of ter­ri­to­rial rule over a so- called caliphate that it pro­claimed in 2014 across vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.

China shop­ping fes­ti­val smashes record at half­way mark

SHANG­HAI Nov 11 (Reuters) - Alibaba, the Chi­nese e-com­merce gi­ant, said its Sin­gles' Day sales surged past last year's to­tal just after mid­day Satur­day, hit­ting a record $18 bil­lion, point­ing to a likely gi­ant haul for the world's big­gest shop­ping event.

Rus­sia's Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin (L) and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump talk as they at­tend the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) lead­ers' sum­mit in the cen­tral Viet­namese city of Danang on Novem­ber 11, 2017 AFP / Sput­nik / Mikhail Kli­men­tyev

Myan­mar's State Coun­selor Aung Sang Suu Kyi ar­rives at the Clark In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Pam­panga, north of Manila on Nov 11, ahead of the 31st South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Sum­mit. AFP / Noel Celis

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