Grins, handshakes as Trump encounters Putin

2017-07-07 15:30
US President Donald Trump talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. (Patrik Stollarz, AFP)

US President Donald Trump talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. (Patrik Stollarz, AFP)

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Hamburg - With broad grins and a warm handshake, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin warmed up for their historic encounter on Friday under the shadow of US outrage about Russian election-meddling and nagging questions about potential Trump campaign collusion.

Ahead of a formal, sit-down meeting, Trump and Putin were seen exchanging pleasantries as a leaders' retreat got under way in Hamburg. A brief video clip showed Trump outstretching his hand to Putin as officials gathered around a table, then patting Putin's elbow as both men smiled. In another clip, Trump casually patted Putin on the back as they stood side by side.

It was the first known in-person interaction between the two men, who have spoken by telephone since Trump was inaugurated in January.

The two leaders planned later on Friday to hold longer talks on Syria and other issues on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit of industrialised and developing nations. The White House said it has scheduled 35 minutes for the meeting.

"Much to discuss," Trump tweeted in advance of the encounter.

Ongoing investigations

The heavily anticipated meeting is being closely scrutinised for signs of how friendly a rapport Trump and Putin will have. Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, had notoriously strained ties to Putin and Trump has expressed an interest in a better US-Russia relationship. But deep skepticism about Russia in the US and ongoing investigations into whether Trump's campaign co-ordinated with Moscow during last year's election have made a US-Russia detente politically risky for Trump.

As leaders gathered at a summit hall in Hamburg for a group photo, Trump and Putin stood on opposite sides of the tableau. Putin chatted casually with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before taking his spot for the photo next to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After the cameras snapped away, Merkel dismissed the group with a firm nod of the head.

Outside the summit site, anti-globalisation protesters were causing problems for first lady Melania Trump, who was kept from joining other leaders' spouses for their own programme of events. Mrs Trump's office said that because of the protests, local police hadn't cleared her to leave the government guest house where she and Trump were staying. Demonstrators set dozens of cars ablaze a day earlier.

Read more on:    g20  |  vladimir putin  |  donald trump  |  russia  |  germany  |  us  |  hacking  |  2016 presidential elections

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