Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harper, Obama Opposed Meetings with Putin, but Urged Tough Messages

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harper, Obama Opposed Meetings with Putin, but Urged Tough Messages

Article excerpt

Harper, Obama opposed meetings with Putin

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BRUSSELS - Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined U.S. President Barack Obama in opposing the plans of some G7 leaders to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, The Canadian Press has learned.

During two days of closed-door G7 leaders' talks in Brussels, Harper and Obama were firmly aligned against the plans of several fellow leaders to sit down with Putin, a source close to the talks said Thursday.

Harper has consistently urged other countries and Canadian businesses to actively isolate Putin on the world stage.

France invited Putin to Friday's commemoration in Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, which began the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.

Putin's imminent arrival has exposed cracks in an otherwise united G7 front that produced a public declaration denouncing his annexation of Crimea and provocations in eastern Ukraine.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are to meet Putin this week and engage him on the Ukraine crisis.

Hollande and Cameron both were to meet Putin on Thursday in Paris, according to Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency. His meeting with Merkel is to come in the French resort of Deauville on Friday.

Hollande has mused that the Normandy setting might be conducive to a positive meeting between Putin and Ukraine president-elect Petrol Poroshenko on Friday.

Behind closed doors, Harper and Obama were united in making it "crystal clear" that they had no intention of meeting Putin, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity about matters that hadn't been publicly disclosed.

Harper and Obama also expressed the view that it was "not ideal" for other leaders to meet him, but if they did, the main message should be a direct, agreed denunciation of Putin's actions on behalf the entire G7, the source said.

"The fundamental point is that this was driven hard by the prime minister and President Obama."

Harper alluded to those discussions during his closing news conference in Brussels on Thursday, after which he departed for France in advance of the D-Day anniversary. …

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