Washington and Moscow seemed to cool rising tension over the Syria conflict but, in what appeared to be an agreement to disagree on the side of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin dwelt more on the need for peace, than on how to achieve it.
Earlier Prime Minister Julia Gillard's lecturing of Europe on how to address its economics crisis provoked a stinging response from European Union Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.
Mr Obama and Mr Putin's meeting failed to find common ground on Washington's call for regime change in Damascus.
For weeks now, the US has been chaffing at Russia's refusal to endorse calls for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to quit – amid accusations that Russia continues to supply the regime with arms.
After two hours of talks, Mr Obama and Mr Putin issued a joint statement, calling for an end to hostilities and for the people of Syria to be allowed to agree on their own fate - independently and democratically.
In their first meeting since Mr Putin's return to the Russian presidency, the leaders made little effort to conceal the strain in their relationship – as much over the fate of the Syrian regime as a range of other issues, from the stationing of US missiles in Europe to the fate of Iran's nuclear program.
The discussions were described by the US President as "candid" – which usually means "difficult". And there was little effort to gloss over the tension when their encounter was opened briefly to TV cameras.
"In order to stop the bloodshed in Syria, we call for an immediate cessation of the violence and express full support for the efforts of the UN and Arab states' joint special envoy Kofi Annan, including on moving forward on political transition to a democratic pluralist political system that would be implemented by the Syrians themselves in the framework of Syrian sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity,” their joint statement said.
"We are united in our belief that the Syrian people should have the opportunity to independently and democratically choose their own future."
But expressions of support for the Annan peace efforts are a measure of the dead-end in which the leaders found themselves - at the weekend the United Nations suspended its monitoring operation in Syria because of attacks by government and rebel forces.
The leaders spoke before the formal opening of the G20 summit. While they met, Ms Gillard had a series of meetings with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, discussing economic issue with both.
"By the way this crisis was not originated in Europe; seeing as you mention North America, this crisis originated in North America and much of our financial sector was contaminated by unorthodox practices from some sectors of the financial market.
"We are not the only ones that are so-called responsible for the current economic problems all over the world."
Earlier, Ms Gillard announced a $20 million contribution to AgResults, a G20- sponsored effort to improve farming and food sustainability in developing countries.
Paul McGeough is in Los Cabos, Mexico.