Trust ‘gaps’ mar Obama, Putin talks
On trip to Asia, president also cancels meeting with cursing Philippine leader
VIENTIANE, Laos — A lack of trust between the U.S. and Russia is getting in the way of possible cooperation to stop the violence in Syria, President Barack Obama said Monday, adding that he plans to keep trying against the odds.
“Given the gaps of trust that exist,” Obama said, “that’s a tough negotiation.”
After a 90-minute meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a world leaders summit in Hangzhou, China, Obama told reporters that “we haven’t yet closed the gaps” between the two sides.
Talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov aimed at finding at least a limited agreement on Syria could take “several more days,” Obama said.
The Obama administration is hoping for an agreement that, at minimum, would end the fighting in and around the city of Aleppo, in northern Syria, and allow for humanitarian aid to civilians there.
In his own news conference after the meeting, Putin said he believed that the talks between U.S. and Russian diplomats were on the “right track” and that in the “next few days” an agreement could be reached.
In the meantime, as he headed for Laos, the next stop on his trip to Asia, Obama canceled a scheduled meeting with the president of the Philippines after the latter publicly cursed ferred to the Philippine been canceled. them to reporters on condiwhile warning him to not leader as a “colorful guy” and The tiff with Duterte protion of anonymity. raise questions about resaid he had told his staff to vided a reminder of the The outstanding gaps, the ported death-squad opinvestigate whether a meetunpredictable events that official said, were “techerations in his country ing with Duterte would still can arise at even the most nical,” having to do with the against suspected drug dealbe “productive.” scripted of international implementation of the ers. Fighting drug trafficking meetings. The protracted agreement. “There was
Earlier in the day, the is “tough,” Obama said, but talks with the Russians, by some backsliding from some Philippine leader, Rodrigo the U.S. will always assert contrast, followed a pattern of the recent discussions in Duterte, said during a news the need to have due process that has become grindingly Geneva” between Kerry and conference that if Obama “and to engage in that fight familiar. Lavrov, the official said, addwere to raise the issue of against drugs in a way that’s In their talks Monday, ing that on Sunday there was extrajudicial killings during consistent with basic interObama and Putin “clarified a “narrowing back” to the their scheduled meeting, national norms.” the remaining gaps” in the positions the parties had “son of a bitch, I will swear at “If and when we have a negotiations about how they taken coming into the meetyou.” ing.meeting,”Obamasaid,“thiscancooperatetoreducevio
As the leader of a soveris something that’s going to lence in Syria, provide huAt the news conference, eign country, he is answerbe brought up.” manitarian assistance and Obama said a “dangerous able only to the Philippine Later, as Obama reached focus on al-Qaida and the dynamic” had taken hold in people, Duterte said. Laos, National Security Islamic State in Syria, actalks over Syria in which the
Asked during his own Council spokesman Ned cording to a senior adminisRussians sought to delegnews conference about DuPrice announced that the tration official familiar with itimize any group that is terte’s remarks, Obama re- meeting with Duterte had the talks, who described fighting their ally, Syrian President Barack Obama said he’ll continue trying to work with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. President Bashar Assad.
The U.S. backs some of the rebel groups against Assad, seeing them as relative moderates. Obama and other U.S. officials would like to see Russia focus on what Obama referred to as “common enemies,” specifically the Islamic State militants and Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate.
Russia, however, considers several of the groups the U.S. backs to be “terrorist” organizations and therefore legitimate targets.