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U.S. extends APEC summit hospitality to Russia amid ongoing tensions

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The United States has declared its intention to treat Russia as a full participant in the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, taking place in San Francisco this week. This decision comes despite the ongoing efforts by the U.S. to isolate Moscow due to its invasion of Ukraine, which has strained diplomatic relations.

As President Vladimir Putin’s visit remains politically unfeasible, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk has been designated to represent Russia at the APEC summit. Matt Murray, the State Department official overseeing APEC, confirmed that Overchuk would be treated as the head of the delegation, allowing him to actively engage in the summit’s proceedings.

Murray explained, “He’s being treated as the head of delegation, and he’ll have the opportunity to participate fully in the week’s events.” Despite being subject to various Western sanctions, Overchuk does not fall under specific U.S. sanctions, distinguishing him from many high-ranking Russian officials.

The U.S. emphasizes its commitment to being “good hosts” of APEC, maintaining that Russia’s participation is within the bounds of U.S. laws and regulations. However, Murray acknowledged that Overchuk’s diplomatic status would not be on par with the heads of state and government attending the summit.

Leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping, a frequent adversary of the U.S., are expected at the APEC summit. Xi is set to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday, as the U.S. expresses optimism about stabilizing relations with China and identifying areas of limited cooperation.

In contrast, U.S.-Russia relations have remained strained since Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The U.S. has largely refrained from engaging with Russia, and an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court hangs over Putin. Despite Russia’s contention that APEC members should determine their own representation, the State Department publicly conveyed its unwelcoming stance towards Putin’s participation in the San Francisco summit last month.

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