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'Cheers' but no cheer: Obama and Putin's grim toast

29 september 2015, 14:22
0
US President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands ahead of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. ©AFP
US President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands ahead of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. ©AFP

Rarely can a toast at a UN luncheon have been so chilly. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin went through the motions on Monday, clinking glasses and making eye contact, but no more, AFP reports.

With UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sitting between them as the world's most senior peacekeeper, the US president gave a toast, ending with "may we never abandon the pursuit of peace."

Obama saluted the world leaders seated at his table, but when he came to Putin, his look hardened and his smile faded. The men stared intently at each other and then clinked their glasses.

Putin, for his part, wore a slight but just perceptible smile.

Camera shutters clattered and the world's media had another in its series of awkward pictures of the pair's relationship of barely concealed contempt.

Later, they met behind closed doors to address their disputes about Russia's intervention in Ukraine and Washington's demand for Syria's president Bashar al-Assad to step down.  


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