Obama and Medvedev hail 're-set' US-Russia ties

Obama and Medvedev eat hamburgers and fries

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his US counterpart Barack Obama have marked a warming in ties between their countries on the Russian leader's first visit to the White House.

Speaking after their talks, Mr Obama said the pair had "succeeded at resetting our relationship".

He said the US was backing Russia's World Trade Organisation accession.

Earlier, the two ate hamburgers and chips at an eatery close to Washington while amused bystanders looked on.

Mr Obama also announced that Moscow would allow the US to resume poultry exports to Russia after a ban of almost six months.

"Our country is more secure and the world is safer when the US and Russia get along well together," Mr Obama told reporters.

But, he added, there were some issues which the two countries did not agree on, such as the former Soviet republic of Georgia, with which Russia fought a brief war nearly two years ago.

Mr Medvedev later flew to Canada, arriving in Toronto for the G8 and G20 summits this weekend.

'Drifted'

Analysis

Kim Ghattas

The two presidents went for a burger lunch in Virginia, they shared fries as they talked through their translators before riding back in the car together to the White House.

It is a sign of how much the relationship between the two countries has improved during the Obama administration.

Disagreements remain, but the Obama administration is keen to showcase the warmer ties with Russia as one of its main foreign policy successes.

The two countries are now hoping to improve trade ties.

Mr Obama said Russia belonged in the World Trade Organisation. The two leaders said they had instructed negotiators to resolve by the autumn technical issues in the way of Russia's accession.

The two nations also agreed on humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan, following deadly ethnic clashes in the Central Asian country.

Mr Medvedev said he believed the situation was vulnerable to "radical elements" and could "degenerate".

"We are very concerned about these conditions, the radicals could come to power," he said.

The two leaders also stressed their cooperation on fighting terrorism, and reiterated a commitment to ratify a treaty signed in April to reduce nuclear weapons.

Mr Obama welcomed Russian support for sanctions against Iran.

After years of cool relations, Mr Obama said such discussions with Moscow would have been unlikely just 17 months ago.

"When I came into office, the relationship between the United States and Russia had drifted, perhaps to its lowest point since the Cold War," he said.

"There was too much mistrust and too little real work on issues of common concern."

Mr Medvedev visited Washington for a 47-nation nuclear summit in April but it was the first time he had been received at the White House.

Burger diplomacy

Russia has wanted WTO membership for some time but the US previously insisted Moscow must do more to safeguard intellectual property rights.

Barack Obama: "We've succeeded in re-setting our relationship"

Mr Obama said on Thursday that any technical barriers to Russia's accession should be resolved swifly.

He said the agreement over poultry exports sent an "important signal about Russia's seriousness about achieving membership in the WTO."

Earlier in the day, in a surprise foray outside the White House, the leaders took a trip for a lunchtime burger in Arlington, Virginia.

During their meal, the pair sat with their interpreters, chatting. Obama drank iced tea, while Medvedev sipped a Coca-Cola.

US officials said the talks were testament to the effectiveness of the new approach to Russia.

But Mr Obama's critics accuse him of being too conciliatory, compromising Washington's influence.

They argue that his approach has not resolved key disputes, such as Moscow's human rights record, missile defence, or the legacy of the Russia-Georgia war.

The two leaders go to Canada this weekend for the G20 summit.

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