Merkel meets Putin for G20 breakfast amid tensions over Ukraine

This is the moment Angela Merkel appeared to scowl at Donald Trump during a tense meeting at the G20 Summit today.

The two world leaders have clashed on trade, the European Union and Nato during Trump’s time in the White House, and the pair appeared unhappy as they sat down together in Buenos Aires.  

Trump was scheduled to talk trade and other prominent international issues with Merkel, a leader he said is ‘highly respected by everybody, including me’.

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia will be high on the agenda, as will Putin’s violation of a landmark nuclear arms treaty deal which the US plans to exit.

Angela Merkel looks less than impressed with Donald Trump during a meeting at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires

President Donald Trump, right, listens as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, speaking to media about the death of former President George H. W. Bush

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a meeting during the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires

The pair shook hands as Trump said Merkel was a ‘highly respected by everybody, including me’

Merkel has come under pressure after Trump questioned traditional trans-Atlantic ties with his announcements of trade tariffs.

The German Chancellor has walked a tight-rope between criticising some of Trump’s decisions and emphasising the relationship with Washington which is central to her government.  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also voiced concerns with Russian President Vladimir Putin over a military flare up in Ukraine at breakfast on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

The pair were all smiles as they shook hands before sitting down to a business breakfast on Saturday morning in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

But Putin is facing growing pressure from the West as he ramps up his military action in Ukraine.

Merkel’s spokesman says the German leader expressed concern about rising tensions in the Kerch Strait off Crimea and pushed for ‘freedom of shipping into the Sea of Azov’ at their breakfast meeting.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) as they sat down to an early breakfast before meeting with other leaders at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Saturday

According to Angela Merkel’s spokesman she expressed concern about rising tensions in the Kerch Strait off Crimea and pushed for ‘freedom of shipping into the Sea of Azov’ at their breakfast meeting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives after her breakfast with Vladimir Putin for a bilateral meeting on the final day of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives at the G20 conference centre for a meeting with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the full session on Saturday morning

President Vladimir Putin in discussion with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (not seen) after his early morning breakfast with Angela Merkel

US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sit down together at the summit on Saturday morning

Donald Trump and Angela Merkel shake hands as they attend a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit

The German and US leaders smile as they shake hands for the cameras at their meeting on Saturday

The pair also discussed the Syrian conflict, according to the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

French President Emmanuel Macron was also said to have had a sideline discussion with Putin over recent events in the Crimea, according to the Russian President’s spokesman.

They both implored Putin to free the sailors who were captured when their ships were seized by the Russians. 

On Friday Ukraine barred Russians of combat age from entering the country as martial law was declared after Russia fired at and seized three Ukrainian naval ships off Crimea last weekend.

President Donald trump cancelled his meeting with the Russian President just an hour after he said he would be meeting with him, citing concerns over manoeuvres in the Kerch Strait. 

The move was applauded in Kiev as the Russian rouble slumped with the markets showing volatility over fears of fresh sanctions.

The Russian interpretation of the cancellation, however, echoed that of some of Trump’s critics at home, who noted the move came amid new challenges for Trump in the probe into Russia’s alleged role in his 2016 election campaign. 

In a further boost to Ukraine, the EU released 500 million euros in financial backing and European Council President Donald Tusk predicted Brussels would continue sanction on Russia at a summit in mid-December. 

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump exchange words before members of the press at a bilateral discussion

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as Angela Merkel sits back in her chair and watches

Angela Merkel attends the final session of the G20 summit, as she listens attentively through interpreter headphones

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) takes his seat at the full session of the leaders on the final day of the G20

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during the plenary session of the G20 summit, at which all of the leaders attend to hold talks

French President Emmanuel Macron (standing) jokes with Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri (seated)  as he arrives to take his seat at the final meeting

Argentina’s first lady Juliana Awada (right) welcomes U.S. first lady Melania Trump (left) at the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires during the leaders summit this morning

Argentina’s first lady Juliana Awada (left) welcomes U.S. first lady Melania Trump (right) at the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires on Saturday morning

The EU has propped up Ukraine’s war-scarred economy since the Crimea annexation while prodding the pro-Western authorities to pass reforms and tackle corruption.  

‘Europe is united in its support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is why I am sure that the EU will roll over the sanctions against Russia in December,’ Tusk told a news conference in Argentina.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday said London would push for ‘appropriate sanctions’ and called on Russia to release the Ukrainian vessels and crew.

The United States and the EU have imposed sanctions on Russia since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea after a pro-Russian leader was toppled in Kiev. 

But despite global tensions increasing, today – after all-night talks at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires – European diplomats claimed to have reached a possible ‘breakthrough’ on fixing the global trading system.

Despite deep divisions going into the summit and resistance from the United States, European Union officials were optimistic and said countries were making progress on a final statement that will acknowledge problems with the World Trade Organization but commit to reforming it.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (centre) and Russia’s Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin (right) at the 2018 G20 summit

China’s President Xi Jinping attends the plenary session at the G20; he is expected to meet President Donald Trump later in the day

Chiles President Sebastian Pinera (centre) during the plenary session on the second day of the G20 summit

The US was the main holdout on nearly every issue, officials claimed. 

With trade tensions between the US and China dominating, the Europeans sought to play mediator.

They also scaled back their expectations, cutting out mention of rising protectionism – mainly aimed at Trump – and agreeing to language on climate that says 19 leaders support the Paris climate accord and international efforts to reduce emissions, but the US doesn’t.

The six-page draft statement says the 20 countries support the international trading system but acknowledge that the current system doesn’t work and needs fixing, via reform of the WTO.

The European diplomats called this the ‘main breakthrough.’

China’s President Xi Jinping (left) and France’s President Emmanuel Macron (right) shake hands during a bilateral meeting on the final day of the conference

Spains Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez greets South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday morning

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives for a bilateral meeting on the final day of the G20 summit

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (left) shakes hands with the Managing Director the International Money Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde (right) at the final day of talks

On climate, the statement notes a recent UN report that warned damage from global warming will be much worse than previously feared, and expresses support for an upcoming U.N. climate meeting in Poland meant to nail down how countries will meet promises made in the Paris accord.

On migration, the US negotiator said too much talk about migration would have been a ‘deal-breaker’ for Trump, the European officials said.

So they came up with ‘minimalist’ language that acknowledges growing migrant flows and the importance of shared efforts to support refugees and solve the problems that drive them to flee.

The statement also shows a commitment to a ‘rules-based international order,’ despite Trump’s rejection of many of those rules.

‘There were moments when we thought all was lost,’ one European official said, ‘moments when we spent two hours on one sentence.’

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing closed-door discussions.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre) posing with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (right) and President of European Council Donald Tusk (left) at the G20 summit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit

 Spouses of the G20 leaders met at the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires while the leaders’ meeting is taking place

US First lady Melania Trump (front centre), Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s spouse Akie Abe (front left), Turkish first lady Emine Erdogan (front right) and European Council President Donald Tusk’s spouse Malgorzata Tusk (back left), gather at a museum on Saturday morning

Perhaps surprisingly, one country that was seen as particularly constructive was Russia, the officials said.

Despite tensions over its military actions on Ukraine and political interference abroad, Russia supports international efforts on trade and climate. 

Saturday will also see a highly anticipated meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose nations have been embroiled in an escalating trade war with new U.S. tariffs on China goods set to take effect a month from now.

‘The trade war between the United States and China does not favor international commerce. … A fight between two big players does not benefit,’ said Dante Sica, Argentina’s minister of production and labor. ‘If they are able to begin to agree, it would be a good signal that would reduce the impacts on international commerce.’

The divisions among the world’s leading economies were evident from the moment Argentina’s president opened the summit Friday with a call for international cooperation to solve the planet’s problems.

On Friday, a U.S. official said progress was being made on the joint statement and the White House was ‘optimistic’ about the document as a whole.

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