U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in New York next week after a long period of not speaking to each other face-to-face. The conversation will most likely cover Ukraine and Syria, but the White House and the Kremlin differed Thursday over their top priorities, Reuters reports.
Putin will speak Monday at the U.N. General Assembly, according to Fox. The Kremlin states that their meeting will occur on the sidelines after Putin speaks. The White House has confirmed the meeting.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Putin requested the meeting; however, the Kremlin said it was organized “by mutual agreement.” Earnest added that “it makes sense for President Obama to sit down with his counterpart and see if he can get greater clarity about Russia’s intentions inside of Ukraine” in light of recent issues.
White House officials say the focus of the conversation will be on the conflict in Ukraine and their fight against the Kiev government. Officials also say that Obama plans to insist that Russia follow the cease-fire terms in Ukraine that were negotiated in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
In contrast, The Kremlin in Moscow seems to think the two will be focusing on Syria, where Russia has furthered its involvement in recent weeks by building up military forces, and that they will only speak of Ukraine if “time allows.” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said, “Of course, the primary topic will be Syria.”
According to the New York Times, Russia is sending in more of their military forces to Syria to boost support for President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s four-year civil war. Earnest said that Obama plans to tell Putin that his support for Assad is a “losing bet,” Fox reports.
Earnest hopes that the meeting may help determine “whether or not they’re willing to at least consider President Obama’s advice when it comes to reinforcing their military support for the Assad regime.”
Obama was set for a summit meeting with Putin in 2013, but he cancelled after Russia gave Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents, support. Relations between the U.S. and Russia crumbled even more when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. The U.S., along with other Western countries, appointed sanctions on Russia over it.
The two leaders spoke on the phone in July after China, three Euopean powers, Russia and the U.S. negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran. They have reportedly spoken on the phone two other times since November.