Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin hold coffee table summit

Barack Obama speaks with Vladimir Putin prior to the opening session of the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey— AP

Barack Obama speaks with Vladimir Putin prior to the opening session of the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey— AP

US President Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin of Russia huddled on Sunday for informal talks around a coffee table, their first summit since Moscow launched air bombardments in Syria, live television images on Turkish state television showed.

The two leaders sat in leather armchairs on opposite sides of a small, low coffee table, both leaning far forward in animated discussion on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya.

Television pictures, with no sound, showed images of the intense coffee table summit, held alongside a potted palm and a tall coffee bar as other delegates wandered by and security agents partially obstructed the view of the television camera. Mr Obama, who was gesturing to reinforce his points, and Mr Putin were flanked at the coffee table by White House national security advisor Susan Rice and another unidentified man, apparently a translator.

Hours earlier, the former Cold War foes shook hands as they took places for a G20 family photograph. It was their first meeting since Russia launched its decla-red anti-ISIS air bombardment in Syria at the end of September. The West suspe-cts the campaign is aimed at propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Relations between the two powers have deteriorated, in particular over Russia’s backing for pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine and now its air campaign in Syria, launched just after Mr Putin’s last meeting with Mr Obama in New York in September.

The frosty atmosphere at Mr Putin’s previous meeti-ngs with Mr Obama has be-come a symbol of the decl-ine in Russia-US relations, with the Russian leader oc-casionally seen slumped in his chair legs akimbo and the US President appearing deeply uncomfortable.

Mr Obama in 2013 had joked that Mr Putin looked like “that bored schoolboy in the back of the classroom”, adding to offence he caused in 2009 by saying the ex-KGB spy had “one foot in the old ways of doing business”.

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