Obama and Putin Talk at D-Day Celebration
(COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France) -- President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of a D-Day celebration Friday, their first in-person conversation since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine began.
Obama and Putin had a conversation lasting between 10 and 15 minutes at a luncheon hosted by French President Francois Hollande at the Chateau de Benouville, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said.
“President Obama and President Putin did speak with each other on the margins of the leaders lunch. It was an informal conversation -- not a formal bilateral meeting,” Rhodes said.
According to a read-out of the conversation from Rhodes, "President Obama underscored that the successful Ukrainian election provides an opportunity that should be taken" and "made clear that de-escalation depends upon Russia recognizing President-elect Poroshenko as the legitimate leader of Ukraine, ceasing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and stopping the provision of arms and materiel across the border."
"President Obama noted President-elect Poroshenko's commitment to pursue reforms to ensure that the rights and interests of all Ukrainians are respected, and urged Russia to work immediately with the government in Kiev to reduce tensions. President Obama made clear that a failure to take these steps would only deepen Russia's isolation," the read-out continued.
"If Russia does take this opportunity to recognize and work with the new government in Kiev, President Obama indicated that there could be openings to reduce tensions," it added.
Obama and Putin were first spotted together at a picture for the heads of state attending the luncheon, including Queen Elizabeth II, who wore a white and green dress with a green hat. In the group photo, Obama and Putin stood with three people between them.
As the leaders started to return to the Chateau, Obama checked on Queen Elizabeth while Putin spoke with Hollande. At one point in their walk, Obama stood right behind Putin, so close he could have tapped him on the shoulder. Instead, Obama seemed to focus his attention elsewhere, as if Putin weren’t inches away.
At the luncheon, leaders were seated around a horseshoe table, and Obama and Putin again were only separated by three people.
Speculation was high all week about whether Obama and Putin would speak to each other as other world leaders, including Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, announced they would be meeting with Putin this week.
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