President Obama has not met one-on-one with President Vladimir Putin for more than 15 months but agreed Thursday to sit down with the Russian leader in New York on Monday as part of a broader effort to resolve the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
The session, which will take place on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly next week, acknowledges Putin’s considerable influence on the world stage, despite a lengthy effort by the administration to punish Russia, diplomatically and economically, for its annexation of Crimea last year and for its support of the forces that have seized portions of Ukraine.
It also underscores the rising alarm over Russia’s stepped-up military involvement in Syria at a time when Obama’s Syria policy has yet to produce tangible gains.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the meeting came at Putin’s request and that at the top of the agenda for Obama will be Ukraine, where, he said, Russian separatist troops remain in “clear violation of the territorial integrity of that sovereign nation.”
Celeste Wallander, the National Security Council’s senior director for Russia and Eurasia, said the “face-to-face” talk between Obama and Putin would give them a chance to discuss not only the situation in Ukraine, but also what Russia is willing to do to counter Islamist extremism and forge a resolution to the conflict in Syria.
“There’s been a lot of talk, and now it’s time for clarity,” Wallander said.
The two leaders last spoke by phone in July after negotiators from Iran and six world powers, including the United States and Russia, reached an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program. Their longest recent face-to-face meeting was a 15-minute conversation during the D-Day commemoration in June 2014; they spoke in passing at a November 2014 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in Beijing.
SOURCE: Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson
The Washington Post