Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin speak separately after four-hour summit


US President Joe Biden (left) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin met for talks at the Villa La Grange in Geneva (Pictures: Rex, Getty Images, AP)

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up their first summit on Wednesday at the historic lakeside Villa La Grange in Geneva after four hours and held symbolically separate press conferences afterward.

Speaking first, Putin said in Russian, ‘our meeting took place in a constructive spirit’, according to an interpreter.

‘Both sides expressed the intention to understand each other and to seek common ground,’ Putin said. ‘Talks were quite constructive.’

Putin said that his one-on-one conversation with Biden ‘took almost two hours’.

‘It’s not every world leader that gets this amount of attention,’ Putin said.

Putin reiterated that ‘the conversation was quite constructive’ and said that ‘President Biden is an experienced statesman’.

The summit was broken into two sessions. The first phase was a smaller meeting of only four: Biden, Putin, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, accompanied by an interpreter. The second phase included larger delegations from both sides.

After the meeting, Biden walked out of the building toward a black car and flashed a thumbs up before stepping into the vehicle.

The White House insisted that the presidents hold separate press conferences after the meeting, with Putin talking first.

The meeting was not expected to result in any breakthroughs, but the leaders were expected to discuss issues of contention between the countries including recent cyberattacks that the US said came from Russia, human rights, arms control and climate change.

In an opening session in a library at the villa, Putin told Biden: ‘Mr President, I would like to thank you for the initiative to meet today. The US and Russian relations have a lot of issues accumulated at the highest level, and I hope that the meeting will be productive.’

Biden replied: ‘As I said outside, it’s always better to meet face to face.’

The two presidents were welcomed to Geneva, ‘the city of peace’, by Swiss President Guy Parmelin.

‘I wish you both presidents a fruitful dialogue in the interest of your two countries and the world,’ Parmelin said.

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