Obama-Putin recipe to smooth Syria tensions: Cosmetic smiles
SAINT-PETERSBURG - Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama on Thursday sought to smooth over weeks of tensions as they cordially shook hands at the G20 with diplomatic smiles for the cameras.
Obama's armoured vehicle was among the last to arrive to be welcomed by Putin for the start of the G20 summit outside Saint Petersburg and, unusually, arrived with both the American and Russian flags on its bonnet.
Putin stood with his hands behind his back as Obama strode purposefully out of the car, arm extended in greeting, towards his Russian host.
In a brief encounter they shook hands, swapped some words possibly about the glorious late summer weather and managed smiles for the hordes of media waiting for the slightest hint of tension.
No bilateral meeting is scheduled between the pair but officials have left the door open to a less formal exchange during the course of the summit.
Obama travelled to the G20 despite cancelling a planned bilateral summit in Moscow that was scheduled this week after relations reached a new post-Cold War low.
Rows over the conflict in Syria, Russia's awarding of asylum to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and tough laws passed by the Russian parliament have all caused deep tensions.
The two looked deeply ill at ease when they last met in Northern Ireland at the G8 summit in June, prompting Obama to later admit that his Russian counterpart sometimes looked like "the bored kid at the back of the classroom".
This prompted many analysts to speculate that the pair have a dire personal rapport but Putin denied this in a television interview Wednesday, describing Obama as "business-like and interesting".