US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to hold talks in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting. The leaders will meet on Monday, 28 September, authorities from both the countries have confirmed.
Though the Ukrainian crisis and the Syrian conflict are largely expected to figure in the meeting, both Russian and American officials differed on the specifics. While White House officials insisted the talks would revolve around Russia's role in Ukraine, Russian officials said the emphasis would be on the Syrian crisis.
"President Obama will once again use this occasion to impress on President Putin the importance for Russia to keep the commitments they've made," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, adding that Russia's influence in eastern Ukraine in favour of the separatists would be the "top agenda item".
This will be the first face-to-face encounter between the two world leaders in nearly a year. It is unclear whether the bilateral talks would take place before or after Putin speaks at the UN General Assembly. Putin is also set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.
Reports suggest the meeting will take place at the request of the Russian side though it has not been officially confirmed as yet. Responding to the purpose of the meeting, Kremlin presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: "Naturally, Syria is going to be topping the agenda." He added that time permitting, the Ukrainian crisis will also be discussed.
Ahead of his discussions with the US president, Putin said in an interview with the CBS TV: "It's my deep belief that any actions to the contrary in order to destroy the legitimate government will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region or in other regions, for instance in Libya, where all the state institutions are disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq."
"And there is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism."