Paper views tone of Putin-Obama meeting at G20 summit as "cool"

Text of report by the website of heavyweight Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 20 June

[Report by Yuriy Paniyev: "At the Resort – About the Euro Zone Crisis and Syria. Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama Obviated Sharp Corners"]

The search for a way out of the European debt crisis and the meeting between the Russian and US presidents were the central topics of the G20 summit that ended in Mexico Tuesday. At the UN Conference on Stable Development that opens today in Rio de Janeiro Russia will be represented by Dmitriy Medvedev.

For two days the Mexican resort of Los Cabos was transformed into the centre of world politics. It was here that the summit of the G20, which unites the world’s 19 largest economies plus the European Union, took place. The G20 accounts for 90 per cent of global GDP, 80 per cent of world trade, and almost 70 per cent of the world’s population.

The usefulness of the G8 has been in doubt for a long time already in view of the changed correlation of forces in the world arena. The G20, on the other hand, as the 2008-9 crisis showed, is the only mechanism as of today for coordinating the actions of the most developed countries.

It is not surprising that the European debt crisis proved to be the main talking point of the summit meeting in Los Cabos. Many of its participants condemned in extremely strong terms the indecisiveness of the euro zone countries in combating the crisis. Angel Gurria, general secretary of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], described the euro zone crisis as "the biggest danger threatening the world economy."

Information on the draft version of the summit’s final communique appeared in the synopses of a few news agencies already on Monday. Its main provisions concern the situation in Europe and the dangers for the entire world of the financial crisis that the euro zone is going through.

The G20 leaders declared their readiness "to act together to strengthen the process of economic recovery" and to adopt all the necessary measures to resolve the crisis, which has been continuing for around three years already. In turn, the European Union guarantees measures to ensure economic stability; however, its leaders warned that the financial problems go far beyond the borders of the Old World.

At the summit there was talk of doubling – to 430bn dollars – the resources that the International Monetary Fund has set aside for combating the spread of the debt crisis in the euro zone. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and the Republic of South Africa) agree to this, a statement by the leaders of this organization adopted on the basis of the results of the meeting in Mexico says. Thus China will allocate 43bn dollars and Russia and India intend to grant the IMF 10bn dollars each. But on the proviso that a number of conditions are observed: The funds must be used only when the Fund’s resources have been substantially depleted. In addition, the donor states must be in possession of information as to on whom and for what purpose this money is spent and be given greater control over the IMF’s activity.

Addressing participants in the meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized certain measures that are being adopted in connection with the financial crisis in the euro zone countries. He noted that these efforts are aimed at increasing liquidity rather than at searching for constructive solutions.

The Russian and US presidents were unable to avoid the discussion of European problems during their meeting – the first since Putin became president for the third time. Although the main topics of their two-hour talks behind closed doors in the Esperanza Hotel were Syria, Iran, missile defence, and the WTO. But the question of the adoption of the so-called "Magnitskiy Act" was not even raised.

Putin and Obama concurred in the opinion that the Syrian people have the right to choose the path of their future development independently. "We call for the immediate cessation of violence and express all-round support for the efforts of UN special envoy Kofi Anan, including movement in the direction of political transition to a democratic, pluralistic, political system to be carried out by the Syrians themselves in the framework of the sovereignty , independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria," the statement adopted by the two presidents says.

Appearing before journalists neither Putin nor Obama mentioned President Bashir al-Asad by name. Unlike in his previous statements, Obama called for a political process that would put an end to the violence in Syria, but did not, contrary to expectation, say that for this al-Asad must leave his post. In the opinion of observers, Obama needed the careful selection of formulas in order to give Moscow room to manoeuvre.

"We spoke about international problems, including Syria, and found many points of contact," Putin said in turn. However, he did not go into details, and in the upshot it remained unclear how much the conversation of the two leaders had helped to bring their positions closer together.

In addition, in a joint six-page statement the presidents expressed the intention to fulfil the new Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons [START], to counter terrorism and drugs trafficking by joint efforts, and also to continue the dialogue on European missile defence.

It did not escape the eagle eyes of journalists that at the end of the meeting Putin and Obama exchanged an extremely reserved handshake, and that the tone of their speeches was cool. Both leaders were fairly constrained; they scarcely looked at one another, and did not even try to smile. Though Obama did remark that he and Putin could find constructive ways of coping with any friction and disagreements existing in bilateral relations.

In the words of the Russian Federation president’s aide Yuriy Ushakov, Putin’s participation in the G20 summit has a special significance because from 1 December the chairmanship of this multilateral forum will pass to Russia for one year. But Putin will not be participating in the UN Conference on Stable Development, which opens today in Rio de Janeiro. There Russia will be represented by Premier Dmitriy Medvedev.

Twenty years after the Conference on the Environment and Stable Development in Rio de Janeiro the heads of state and government of 135 countries will meet again to discuss problems of the environment and the eradication of poverty. Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota explained to Nezavisimaya Gazeta that "many countries concur on at least two questions: First, no single model of a "green" economy exists, and, second, it is impossible to talk about a "green" economy without talking about the eradication of poverty, that is to say, in isolation from the goals of social policy."

Therefore each of the member countries of the Rio plus 20 forum will be given the possibility of formulating its own conception of the "green" economy in accordance with its own national peculiarities, resources, and priorities of economic development. At the end of the forum a declaration will be adopted whose final text, admittedly, Nezavisimaya Gazeta has learned from informed sources, had still not been agreed as of the end of the day on Tuesday.

Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 20 Jun 12

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