- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2015

He has Pope Francis on his schedule, but Russian President Vladimir Putin right now has no plans to meet with President Obama when he travels to New York later this month for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the U.N. General Assembly, the Russian leader’s spokesman said Thursday.

“No such meeting is on the schedule so far,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a Moscow briefing, according to the Interfax news service. “Certainly, when he sees how the schedules and when some initiative arises, then there’ll be a more concrete analysis.”

Mr. Peskov said the White House so far has not made a request for a meeting of the two leaders, who have clashed over Russia’s intervention in the Ukrainian crisis, the annexation of Crimea and rising tensions along Russia’s border with NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Putin and the Pope, who have met twice before, are slated to have a private meeting in New York after the pontiff addresses the U.N. gathering Sept. 25. According to diplomatic practice, the pope traditionally meets with the leader of the country that holds the rotating chairmanship of the U.N. Security Council, and Russia holds that post for September.

But the Pope will be concluding his U.S. trip, which includes stops in Washington and Philadelphia, with a very quick stop in New York on Sept. 25, and Mr. Putin is not slated to address the General Assembly until two days later, raising questions of whether a bilateral meeting will come off.

Top Russian officials said last month they were open to a bilateral meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama in New York. The two leaders last met for a brief and chilly exchange on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific APEC summit in China in November 2014. Mr. Putin has not made an official visit to the United States since his election to a third term as president in 2012.

This will reportedly be Mr. Putin’s first visit to New York in a decade.

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