High stakes Biden-Putin summit begins in Geneva

Geneva: US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday smiled and greeting each other awkwardly with a handshake outside a villa in Geneva, before heading in for a highly-anticipated summit.

This is the first meeting of Biden in a decade with the Russian president, whom he last met when Putin was prime minister and he was serving as vice president, in March of 2011. The summit is also the first meeting between US and Russian leaders since Putin met Donald Trump in Helsinki in 2018.

Swiss President Guy Parmelin welcomed both the leaders to Switzerland and they were photographed standing on either side of the Swiss President before the leaders of the US and Russia headed inside. 

Parmelin wished the two leaders “a fruitful dialogue,” reported CNN.

As the pair sat down before the start of the summit, Biden said ” I think it’s always better to meet face to face,” while Putin said he hoped their “meeting will be productive”.

“Still the US and Russia and US relations have a lot of issues accumulated that require the highest-level meeting and I hope that our meeting will be productive,” Biden said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov also joined the two leaders for the first session, reported CNN.

The White House said in a statement that it seeks to “restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship.” Biden will also hold a solo news conference after the summit.

Biden smiled once as Putin spoke, but the leaders were largely stone-faced. The two exchanged rare eye contact, but Putin largely looked down and was slouched in his chair, reported CNN.

Putin, via a translator, expressed hopes that the meeting will be “productive.”

Both leaders have recently acknowledged a low point in relations between the two nations.