G20 Family Photo in Argentina depicts smiles and scoffs

Shinzo Abe, Donald Trump and Narendra Modi (Pic credit: PMO India )

World leaders pose for this class photo, not like they would pose for casual pictures shot during a vacation, but with clear agendas to send firm signals to their home country and the world. This year’s group photo at the G20 saw US President Donald Trump sandwiched between French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Host President Mauricio Macri shook hands with all the world and economic leaders. In the photo, a summit tradition, President Trump seemed to engage in small collegial talk with the two men at his elbows. He did not appear to speak with Vladimir Putin or Mohammed Bin Salman during the photo.

As a matter of fact, all eyes were on US President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had planned to meet at the G20 before Trump abruptly canceled on Thursday, Nov. 29. Trump blamed the cancelation on Russia’s refusal to release Ukrainian navy ships and sailors seized during a maritime confrontation between the two countries last Sunday. According to a White House official, Trump and Putin have not rescheduled their meeting.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested Friday that the “US domestic political situation” was the real reason the meeting was spiked, alluding to Michael Cohen’s guilty plea in the Mueller investigation on Thursday. In response, a White House official told CNN that the Kremlin appeared to be “trying to save face” with their statement.

One leader who almost didn’t make the photo was outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who ran in last minute to a round of applause from the others, waving his hand in apology.

Also missing was Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was delayed by a serious technical failure on her plane, which forced her to return to Germany Thursday night. She is on her way now and should make it in time for the summit opening night dinner. She did, however, miss the scheduled meetings Friday with the likes of Trump and Xi, and may have to find a way to squeeze them in.

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