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There are moments when dull is good. This was one of them.

It was clearly a big and important meeting – the first face-to-face encounter between Joe Biden as US president and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

And with relations back nearing Cold War levels (they had both conceded as much) a tête-à-tête was needed.

Given the state of things and the context of the unpredictable diplomacy of Donald Trump, the possibility of a diplomatic incident was there.

President Biden and President Putin shake hands in Geneva. Pic: AP
The US and Russian leaders shake hands in Geneva. Pic: AP

Indeed when news filtered out that there had just been two sessions, not the three that were planned, and that the meetings had ended ahead of schedule, we wondered: Was this a sign that talks had broken down?

We were hastily called into the first of the two news conferences – the Russian one.

Mr Putin’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in the room, a sign that his boss would soon follow. Did he look downbeat, angry? I couldn’t tell.

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But then President Putin took to the podium.

Within moments he had announced the nations’ respective ambassadors would be reinstalled in their host capitals.

This represents the beginning at least of the resumption of the mechanics of diplomacy. An achievement.

Then came further positive language.

President Putin addresses members of the media after his meeting with President Biden
President Putin addresses members of the media after his meeting with President Biden

Mr Putin’s “overall assessment” was that there was “no hostility”.

“On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit. Both sides expressed intention to understand each other,” Mr Putin said.

On cyber security, he said: “We agreed on consultations in this respect.”

They may just be words but they are valuable in a relationship so strained.

The Russian president revealed the two leaders talked about their families. “It shows his qualities and moral values,” the translator quoted Mr Putin as saying.

There were clearly more tense exchanges in their meetings. Mr Biden had, the Russian president revealed, brought up human rights and the case of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Here, Mr Putin deflected, with a spot of ‘whataboutism’, drawing comparisons with the jailed protesters from the January storming of the US Capitol in Washington DC and the enduring existence of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

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No hostility with Biden meeting – Putin

President Biden watched all this on screens from another corner of the park on the shores of Lake Geneva before taking to his own podium.

And again, the language was positive.

It wasn’t, Mr Biden said, a “kumbaya moment”. No hugging or anything but “when was the last time two heads of state talked for two hours?”

There is, he said “no substitute for face-to-face dialogue. We share a responsibility between two strong and powerful countries. I told him I am not against Russia or anyone else. I’m for the American people”.

He said he had delivered three key points. First, practical measures to advance mutual interests, second, the importance of communication, and third, the ability to lay out US values.

The “tone was good”. The talks were “positive”. There “wasn’t any strident action taken… Where we disagreed we stated it”. Nothing was done in a “hyperbolic way”.

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‘I don’t think he’s looking for a Cold War’

But neither leader was remotely effusive. After all, their world views are profoundly different and there was never any expectation that would change with this meeting.

It was about creating a more stable, predictable relationship where they can at least understand and control their disagreements as well as the fallout.

“This is not about trust. This is about self interest and verification of self interest,” Mr Biden said.

They had always played down this meeting as just the first stage of rebuilding dialogue.

And it was precisely that. There was no Trump-style drama, no diplomatic moments.

A little dull then, but that’s no bad thing for a relationship which can be so perilous.

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Couple ‘likely dead’ after yacht hijacked by escaped convicts




Couple 'likely dead' after yacht hijacked by escaped convicts

An American couple who disappeared a week ago after their catamaran was hijacked by three escaped convicts are likely dead, police have said.

Police Commissioner Don McKenzie said the prisoners had escaped custody on the Caribbean island of Grenada on the 18 February and the following day commandeered a catamaran named Simplicity – with Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry on board.

“Information suggests that while travelling between Grenada and St Vincent, they disposed of the occupants,” Commissioner McKenzie said.

The couple was last seen on the night the prisoners escaped and their boat was later tracked leaving the Grenada late at night at an unusual speed.

Police in St Vincent and the Grenadines captured the three fugitives on Wednesday, he said, adding that a team from Grenada had been dispatched to collaborate on “having a complete and thorough investigation of the matters at hand”.

The island nations are separated by about 85 nautical miles.

Ron Mitchell, 30, Trevon Robertson, 19, and 25-year-old Abita Stanislaus were being held at the South Saint George Police Station near Grenada’s southwestern tip on charges of robbery with violence, when they escaped.

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Mitchell also faces counts of rape, attempted rape and indecent assault.

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Police from St Vincent said in a statement they had discovered the ship with no bodies but items strewn across the deck and possible blood on board.

On Monday the suspects appeared in court in St Vincent on four immigration counts, to which they pleaded guilty, and they had been remanded into custody with sentencing set for 4 March.

St Vincent Police Superintendent Junior Simmons said that though the couple are presumed dead, “the investigation and search for the missing persons continues.”

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Taylor Swift’s dad accused of punching photographer in face after Sydney show




Taylor Swift's dad accused of punching photographer in face after Sydney show

An Australian photographer claims he was punched by Taylor Swift’s dad in Sydney following the singer’s concert.

Ben McDonald said he told police the incident happened at Neutral Bay Wharf, where Swift and her dad had just come ashore from a yacht hours after the singer’s final show in the city.

While officers did not release names, police said they are investigating an alleged assault by a 71-year-old man on a 51-year-old man at 2.30am local time.

Swift’s representatives have not responded to a request for comment, but a spokesperson told Rolling Stone magazine two people were “aggressively pushing” to get to Swift.

They added that the people grabbed security and threatened a member of the singer’s staff.

Mr McDonald said media had been waiting to picture the star as she walked towards two cars.

“There were about four or five security there and at one point, one of the American security started shoving his umbrella into me and my camera and then Taylor got in her car,” he said.

“Someone else came running at me and punched me in the left side of my face.

“Initially, I thought it was an Australian security that was trying to be the hero of the moment in the front of the Americans, but as it turned out it was her father.”

Mr McDonald said he recognised Swift’s father, Scott Swift, from a picture online – adding that he doesn’t have any bruising and didn’t need any treatment.

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“In 23 years, I haven’t been assaulted and punched in the chops, particularly by the talent’s dad,” he said.

“We didn’t go rushing down the jetty. We didn’t go rushing to the back of the boat. We waited for her to come up. Kept it very civil.

“But no, they… put the umbrellas up and umbrellas over her and then shove the umbrellas into our faces and then make out that we’re the ones making contact with them.”

Swift left the country on Tuesday after more than 600,000 fans saw her Eras Tour performance across seven concerts.

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Israel-Hamas war: Joe Biden says he hopes Gaza ceasefire can be agreed ‘by end of the weekend’




Israel-Hamas war: Joe Biden says he hopes Gaza ceasefire can be agreed 'by end of the weekend'

Joe Biden has said he hopes a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas can be secured by the weekend.

The US president made the remarks during an unannounced visit to the Van Leeuwen ice cream parlour, next door to 30 Rock in New York, on Monday.

Flanked by late night TV show host Seth Meyers, Mr Biden was asked by reporters on when a ceasefire in Gaza could start.

In a surprise turn, he said that he hopes it will take place “by the end of the weekend”.

“My national security advisor (Jake Sullivan) tells me that we’re close, we’re close, we’re not done yet,” he said. “My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.”

Mr Biden’s comments come as Israel prepares to start a military operation in Rafah – which he has warned against without a “credible” plan to protect civilians.

Pic: AP
The US president made the remarks during an unannounced visit to the Van Leeuwen ice cream parlour, New York. Pic: AP

Israel has said it will go ahead with an offensive on the city if hostages are not returned by 10 March, which is when Ramadan starts.

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According to NBC News, Sky news’ US partner network, Qatar is mediating talks between Israel and Hamas this week, and ceasefire negotiations have taken place between US, Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials in Paris.

Should it happen, it would be the second ceasefire following one in November which saw several hundred Palestinians released from Israeli jails and about 100 hostages freed by Hamas.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said earlier on Monday that the Israeli Defence Force proposed a plan for the evacuation of civilians from “fighting areas” to the country’s war cabinet.

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