Trust ‘gaps’ mar Obama, Putin talks

On trip to Asia, pres­i­dent also can­cels meet­ing with curs­ing Philip­pine leader

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Christi Par­sons Los Angeles Times reporter Tracy Wilkin­son in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted.

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.

LIN­TAO ZHANG/GETTY

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