A scuffle broke out at the climate summit in Copenhagen on Friday when Chinese officials blocked US reporters from entering a room where President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao were to meet, with the White House press secretary threatening to pull out of the meeting if the American press was barred.
According to CNN, members of the Chinese media arrived before the American press contingent, and Chinese officials blocked the entrance to the room once the Chinese press were inside.
That angered White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who can be heard on video of the incident saying, “My guys have to get in just like your guys got in. This is a joint meeting, and my guys get in or we’re leaving.”
CNN’s footage of the incident shows a chaotic scene in which Chinese officials can be seen blocking the camera crew from gaining access to the room. The officials can be heard repeating “No, no, no” as Gibbs argues with them.
Bloomberg news service reports that Premier Wen had “snubbed” Obama earlier in the day when the Chinese leader failed to show up to a meeting of world leaders. Obama and the premier met in private later on in the day. The two leaders then scheduled another meeting for Friday afternoon, and it was evidently at this meeting that the scuffle broke out.
The altercation was one of a number of chaotic events at the last day of the Copenhagen summit, as world leaders and negotiators scrambled to come up with some sort of understanding in the face of major disagreements between developing and wealthy countries over issues such as the depth of carbon emissions cuts, who would pay for the cuts, and how they would be verified.
In exchange for offering financial support to developing countries for emissions reductions, US negotiators had asked for a verification system the ensure that the countries that receive aid are actually cutting emissions. China refused that demand, throwing up an obstacle to an international deal on climate change.
UPDATE: US officials now say that they have reached a deal with China and other developing countries on climate change. The deal reportedly includes a resolution to the conflict between the US and China on the issue of verifying emissions cuts.
Earlier in the day, conference organizers abandoned the traditional “family photo” that’s taken of world leaders at summits, ostensibly because of scheduling conflicts during the hectic last day of meetings. Organizers said the photo shoot was being postponed, but Russian Premier Vladimir Putin had already left Copenhagen at that point, and other leaders were scheduled to leave as well.
— With Agence France-Presse
This video is from CNN’s Newsroom, broadcast Dec. 18, 2009.