World Bulletin / News Desk
Both Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama have been invited to commemorate the 70th anniversary since the end of World War II by French president Francois Hollande in Normandy on Thursday, but the two leaders will nonetheless be kept apart amid tensions over Ukraine.
Obama and Putin will be among 18 world leaders invited to mark D-Day in the French region. However, the organization of two separate evening meals with Hollande aims specifically to keep Obama and Putin away from each other.
Russian and French diplomats told AP that Obama will share the first evening meal with Hollanda, followed by another evening meal between Hollande and Putin two hours later.
France, which has recently attracted criticism for completing a deal which saw the sale of French warships to Russia despite economic sanctions on Moscow shares a good relationship with both superpowers. Hollande will be the first Western leader to meet Putin since Russia annexed Crimea in March.
Obama's foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes confirmed that there was no trilateral meeting between American, French and Russian officials planned, and it is also likely that one meal will be held outside the presidential palace so Putin and Obama don't come across one another.
Obama, who has been in a similar situation before, has not avoided shaking hands with rival presidents when bumping into them. In 2009 he shook hands with the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and also shook hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro during the memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela.
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