US and Russian leaders set for tense Geneva talks

US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are preparing to sit down for their first, highly-anticipated summit.

The talks in Geneva, Switzerland, come at a time when both sides describe relations as being at rock bottom.

Issues include arms control, sanctions and US allegations of Russian cyber-attacks and election interference.

No major breakthroughs are expected but there are hopes of finding small areas of agreement.

The summit is set to begin at around 13:00 (11:00 GMT).

It comes on the tail-end of Biden’s first foreign trip as US President, in which he has also attended meetings with G7 and Nato leaders. Going into the summit, Biden has stressed that he has the backing of his Western partners.

The meeting will be held in a villa overlooking Lake Geneva.

The choice of Geneva as the setting harks back to the Cold War summit between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.

However, there is little prospect that Wednesday’s summit will match that meeting either for personal rapport or political thaw, BBC Moscow correspondent reports.

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, told journalists in Moscow that the US-Russia relationship was “at an impasse”, and there was “not much” ground for optimism.

Neither currently has an ambassador in-country, and Russia recently included the US on its official list of “unfriendly states”.

However, Putin told state TV there were “issues where we can work together”, starting with new nuclear arms control talks, discussing regional conflicts including Syria and Libya, and climate change.

“If we can create mechanisms for working on those issues, then I think we can say the summit was not in vain,” he said.

Similar messages have been given by the US.

A senior official told reporters they were “not expecting a big set of deliverables out of this meeting”.

But Biden has said it is an important step if the two countries are able to ultimately find “stability and predictability” in their relations.

He says he hopes to work with Putin on areas where cooperation is in the interests of both countries.

In the run-up to the talks, the US president – who has previously described Putin as a killer – called the Russian leader “a worthy adversary”.

By BBC News


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