US, Russia agree to return ambassadors, says Putin after meeting with Biden - GulfToday

US, Russia agree to return ambassadors, says Putin after meeting with Biden


Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Joe Biden prior to the US-Russia summit at the Villa La Grange, in Geneva on Wednesday. AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow and Washington agreed for their ambassadors to return, after talks in Geneva with US counterpart Joe Biden.

"They will return to their place of work. When exactly is a purely technical question," Putin told reporters after a summit in Geneva. Diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington had all but broken down since Biden took office. Putin said that he also discussed a possible prisoner swap with Biden and there may be "compromises" possible.
PutinGenevaVladimir Putin addresses the media during a press conference in Geneva. AP

After Biden likened Putin to a "killer," Russia in March took the rare step of recalling its ambassador Anatoly Antonov and said the US envoy John Sullivan to Moscow likewise should return to Washington. Sullivan left Moscow in April, as the two countries announced a wave of tit-for-tat sanctions and expulsions of diplomats.

In May, Russia formally designated the United States an "unfriendly" state, barring its embassy from employing Russian nationals. The only other country on that list is the Czech Republic.

PutinBiden-handsThis combination of pictures shows Vladimir Putin (L) and Joe Biden reaching out to shake hands before their meeting at Villa La Grange. AFP

“Our assessment of many issues differ, but in my view both sides demonstrated the desire to understand each other and looks for ways to get closer,” Putin said. "The conversation was rather constructive,” he added.

With stern expressions and polite words before the cameras, Biden and Putin plunged into hours of face-to-face talks on Wednesday at a lush lakeside Swiss mansion, a highly anticipated summit at a time when both leaders agree that relations between their countries are at an all-time low.

The summit at the lakeside Villa La Grange in Geneva lasted less than four hours — far less than Biden’s advisers had said they expected.

Biden called it a discussion between "two great powers” and said it was "always better to meet face to face.” Putin, for his part, said he hoped the talks would be "productive.”

BidenPutin-firstmeet-750x450Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin pose for the media at Villa La Grange. AP

The meeting in a book-lined room had a somewhat awkward beginning — both men appeared to avoid looking directly at each other during a brief and chaotic photo opportunity before a scrum of jostling reporters.

Biden nodded when a reporter asked if Putin could be trusted, but the White House quickly sent out a tweet insisting that the president was "very clearly not responding to any one question, but nodding in acknowledgment to the press generally.”

Putin ignored shouted questions from reporters, including if he feared jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The two leaders did shake hands — Biden extended his hand first and smiled at the stoic Russian leader — moments earlier when they posed with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland for the summit. Biden and Putin are expected to meet for four to five hours of wide-ranging talks.

For months, they have traded sharp rhetoric. Biden has repeatedly called out Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on US interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Russia's foremost opposition leader and interference in American elections.

Putin-Bidenmeeting-750x450Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin arrive to meet at the Villa la Grange. AP

Putin, for his part, has reacted with whatabout-isms and obfuscations — pointing to the Jan.6 insurrection at the US Capitol to argue that the US has no business lecturing on democratic norms and insisting that the Russian government hasn't been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite US intelligence showing otherwise.


In advance of Wednesday's meeting, both sides set out to lower expectations. Even so, Biden said it was an important step if the United States and Russia were able to ultimately find "stability and predictability" in their relationship, a seemingly modest goal from the president for dealing with the person he sees as one of America's fiercest adversaries.

"We should decide where it’s in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that," Biden told reporters earlier this week. "And the areas where we don’t agree, make it clear what the red lines are."

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that no breakthroughs were expected and that "the situation is too difficult in Russian-American relations.” He added that "the fact that the two presidents agreed to meet and finally start to speak openly about the problems is already an achievement.”

Putininterview-750x450Swiss President Guy Parmelin (second right) speaks to Vladimir Putin in Geneva. AP

Arrangements for the meeting were carefully choreographed and vigorously negotiated.

Biden first floated the meeting in an April phone call in which he informed Putin that he would be expelling several Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions against dozens of people and companies, part of an effort to hold the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year’s presidential election and the hacking of federal agencies.

Putin and his entourage arrived first at the summit site: Villa La Grange, a grand lakeside mansion set in Geneva’s biggest park. Next came Biden and his team. Putin flew into Geneva on Wednesday shortly before the scheduled start of the meeting; Biden - who was already in Europe for meetings with allies - arrived the day before.

UR-RussiaSummitA sailboat unfurls a banner over the waters of Lake Geneva that reads "Peace and Security Through Disarmament." AP

Biden and Putin first held a relatively intimate meeting joined by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Each side had a translator for the session, which lasted about an hour and a half. The meeting then expanded to include five senior aides on each side.

After the meeting concludes, Putin is scheduled to hold a solo news conference, with Biden following suit. The White House opted against a joint news conference, deciding it did not want to appear to elevate Putin at a moment when the president is urging European allies to pressure Putin to cut out myriad provocations.

Associated Press / Agence France-Presse

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