In Bénouville, France, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have gone out of their way to ignore each other.
"Obama and Putin were at times close enough to touch but did not speak with or acknowledge each other in the pool's presence," the White House pool reporter notes.
The reporter adds:
All of the visiting leaders were brought to the back of the chateau for a family picture. Queen Elizabeth II moved gingerly down a couple stairs. Hollande was in the middle with the queen to his right and Potus to her right. The queen wore a white and green dress with a green hat and seemed in good spirits. To Hollande's left was the queen of Denmark, in blue dress and hat. Putin was escorted in and directed to stand to her left. So that meant Potus and Putin were separated by three people.
After the photograph, everyone began moving off but for some reason they got called back to reassemble in the same positions and take it again. Potus made a point of jovially greeting other leaders, kissing Merkel on both cheeks, but he and Putin seemed to go out of their way not to encounter each other. As the leaders began making their way toward the chateau, Potus lingered to make sure Queen Elizabeth was okay while Putin moved ahead chatting with Hollande. At one point as the crowd moseyed slowly toward the building, Obama was right behind Putin and could have tapped him on the shoulder if he wanted to but instead focused his attention elsewhere as if not noticing who was there.
When the group made its way to the side entrance, Putin stopped and engaged in a couple minutes of conversation with Poroshenko and Merkel. Your pool could not hear any of it. Obama, still not looking at Putin, circled around the cluster of people and entered the chateau.
Two of your poolers were allowed into the room with the lunch briefly and there was no more indication of any contact between Potus and Putin than there had been outside.
The leaders were seated around a horseshoe table in a room barely big enough to fit them all. As outside, Hollande was in the middle with Queen Elizabeth to his right and Potus to her right. To Hollande's left was the queen of Denmark and to her left was Putin. So the two were again separated by three people.
Hollande was standing and speaking when we were brought in but there was no translation. Potus looked at him attentively but had no one interpreting for him. Putin likewise had no translation and seemed polite but less interested. After Hollande finished, Potus and the queen began chatting in a lively way, both of them smiling.
Each place at the table had a program and four glasses to go with the china and silver. Each had a roll but no other food yet.
UPDATE: The White House says the two leaders talked:
Ben Rhodes tells the pool that Potus and Putin talked on the sideline of the luncheon: "President Obama and President Putin did speak with each other on the margins of the leaders lunch. It was an informal conversation - not a formal bilateral meeting. Will have longer readout to come but wanted to confirm given reports." Rhodes said they spoke for 10 to 15 minutes.
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