Smiles and chit-chat as Putin, Obama seek to mask strains
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (AFP) - With a macho handshake, wide smiles for the cameras and a spot of small talk about the late summer weather, President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin sought on Thursday to mask months of tensions that gave rise to talk of a bitter personal animosity.
The squirmingly awkward pictures from their last encounter at the G-8 in June and Mr Obama's cancellation of a bilateral summit in Moscow had created expectations of another tense encounter. But the two men made some effort to show that - if not exactly the best of friends - they could still make a show of diplomatic bonhomie when required.
Mr Obama's armoured vehicle was among the last to arrive to be welcomed by Mr Putin for the start of the G-20 summit outside St Petersburg. Unusually, the car - known as "the beast" - arrived with both the American and Russian flags on its bonnet in a possible US gesture towards the host.
Mr Putin stood alone with his hands behind his back as he waited to welcome his guest to the Konstantinovsky Palace on the Gulf of Finland under gleaming blue early September skies. Mr Obama strode purposefully out of the car, arm extended in greeting towards his Russian host.