Wide gulf, slim hopes as Putin and Biden begin summit
With deep disagreements likely and expectations of solving them low, U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down in a lakeside Geneva villa on Wednesday for their first summit since Biden took office.
Both have said they hope their talks can lead to more stable and predictable relations, even though they are at odds over everything from arms control and cyber-hacking to election interference and Ukraine.
Putin and Biden shook hands on arrival before going inside.
"Mr President, I'd like to thank you for your initiative to meet today," Putin said, sitting next to Biden.
Biden said they would try to determine areas of cooperation and mutual interest, adding: "It is always better to meet face to face."
Aides had earlier downplayed hopes for the meeting.
"We're not expecting a big set of deliverables out of this meeting," a senior U.S. official told reporters, saying the leaders were expected to talk for four or five hours.
"I'm not sure that any agreements will be reached," said Putin's foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov.
Relations have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. charges - denied by Moscow - of meddling in the 2016 election that brought Donald Trump to the White House.
They sank further in March when Biden said he thought Putin was a "killer", prompting Russia to recall its ambassador to Washington for consultations. The United States recalled its ambassador in April.
The senior U.S. official said the United States was looking at "areas where working together can advance our national interests and make the world safer".
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two presidents would "need to determine how to proceed with the heads of the diplomatic missions", according to Russian news agencies.