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International Relations

Putin meets Obama, Poroshenko on sidelines of D-Day celebrations

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met on the sidelines of the D-Day anniversary celebrations in Normandy. Putin also met Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko.

A White House official confirmed that an "informal" meeting took place between Putin and Obama on Friday, saying it had lasted 10-15 minutes.

The meeting, which took place as the pair waited to head to a D-Day 70th anniversary celebration lunch with other world leaders, was said to have been an informal conversation rather than a formal bilateral meeting.

"Putin and Obama spoke for the need to end violence and fighting as quickly as possible," said Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Both Washington and Moscow revealed little as far as details of the conversation were concerned.

Before and after the meeting, the pair's public behavior towards each other was described by media as evasive.

Obama told reporters Thursday that if he and Putin did speak, he would tell the Russian leader that he had a new path to engage with Ukraine.

The Obama-Putin meeting came after a gathering in Brussels earlier this week between leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) wealthier nations. The G7 leaders temporarily suspended the G8 grouping, which includes Russia, after Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March.

First meeting of presidents

Putin also met the new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for the first time since he was elected on May 25 when he won nearly 54.7 percent of the vote. The pair were said to have discussed how Russia could recognize the result of the Ukrainian elections, as well as how both parties could bring an end to the violence in the country's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russian newswires reported Kremlin spokesman Peskov as saying that Putin and Poroshenko had together called for the "soonest [possible] end to bloodshed in southeastern Ukraine and combat action by both parties, the Ukrainian armed forces and supporters of the federalization of Ukraine."

Peskov said that Putin and Poroshenko had also "confirmed that there is no alternative to settling the situation by peaceful political means."

The two leaders shook hands and talked for some 15 minutes, according to aides to French President Francois Hollande. "They were able to begin a dialogue on possible de-escalation measures including Moscow recognising Porochenko's election," the AFP news agency reported the official as saying.

Reminder from Merkel

Both Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were present as the two men spoke, while Merkel also had a private formal conversation with Putin earlier in the day.

German government spokesperson Christiane Wirtz said Merkel "took the opportunity to remind Russia again of its great responsibility" and said that following the presidential election in Ukraine, the priority needs to be a "stabilization of the situation, in particular in eastern Ukraine."

While the Kremlin has said it is prepared to work with Poroshenko, it has stopped short of recognizing him as the legitimate leader of the country.

Recent days have seen tensions mount in eastern Ukraine, with the government confirming on Thursday that it had lost control of three border posts to rebels. One police officer was killed and two others injured on Friday in a mortar attack in Slovyansk.

rc/hc (AFP, AP)

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