Trump-Putin summit: US and Russia agree to hold meeting in 'third country'

 ‘I think it will be the main international event of the summer,’ says Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov

Chris Stevenson
International Editor
Wednesday 27 June 2018 16:40 BST
US national security adviser John Bolton met Putin in Moscow and said he hoped Russia and the United States could find ‘areas where we can agree and make progress together’
US national security adviser John Bolton met Putin in Moscow and said he hoped Russia and the United States could find ‘areas where we can agree and make progress together’ (AP)

Russia and the US have agreed to hold a summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said the summit would take place in a mutually convenient third country and that several more weeks were needed for preparations. He said Moscow and Washington would announce the time and place of the summit on Thursday.

The announcement came after Mr Putin held talks with US national security adviser John Bolton in the Kremlin, who conceded that the meeting may not go down well with critics at home, or international allies abroad.

Russia has faced sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and difficult relations with a number of nations over a range of issues in recent years. These include Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and the annexation of Crimea. The poisoning of a Russian former spy in Salisbury has also heightened tensions between Moscow and the UK. Mr Bolton said Mr Trump would raise the “full range of issues” with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a forthcoming summit between the two leaders.

Such a meeting will not be greeted kindly by Mr Trump’s critics and some members of Congress who question Mr Trump’s commitment to his Nato allies and fret over his desire to rebuild relations with Moscow even as Washington tightens sanctions.

The US initially sanctioned Russia over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and its support for a pro-Russian uprising in the east of the country. Subsequent sanctions have punished Moscow for what Washington has called its malign behaviour and alleged meddling in US politics.

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has indicted Russian firms and individuals for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election to the benefit of Mr Trump, and he is investigating whether anyone in Mr Trump’s campaign helped the Russian effort. The US president denies wrongdoing and calls the investigation a “witch hunt”. The Kremlin also denies being involved in any interference.

Mr Bolton said he did not think there was “anything unusual” about Mr Trump meeting Mr Putin.

“I think the fact of the summit itself is a deliverable,” Mr Bolton said after talks with Mr Putin and other Russian officials. “There are a lot of issues to talk about that have accumulated, and I think this was one of the reasons why President Trump believed so strongly that it was time to have this kind of meeting. And as you can see, President Putin agreed.”

The Kremlin foreign policy aide Mr Ushakov said: “This meeting has been planned for a long time... It has enormous importance for Russia and America, but it [also] has huge importance for the whole international situation. I think it will be the main international event of the summer.”

At the White House, Mr Trump said that he would probably be meeting with Mr Putin during a trip to Europe next month. He mentioned Helsinki, Finland and Vienna or Austria as possible venues.

Mr Bolton was warmly greeted by the Russian president in a grand meeting room at the Kremlin, with statutes of Russian czars as a back.

Mr Putin opened the meeting by saying US relations are in a poor state, a refrain he often returns to. Mr Putin said that is in large part because of the domestic political environment in the United States.

“Your visit here to Moscow inspires hope that we will be able to take first steps to restore full-fledged relations between Russia and the United States,” Mr Putin said. “Russia never sought confrontation, and I hope that today we will be able to talk about what we can do from both sides in order to restore full-fledged relations on the foundation of equality and of respect for each other’s interests.”

Mr Bolton said he hoped Russia and the United States could find “areas where we can agree and make progress together”.

Mr Trump’s national security adviser joked that he looked forward to “hearing about how you handled the World Cup so successfully”, drawing a big smile from Mr Putin. While Russia is currently hosting this summer’s iteration of the football tournament, the US has been picked to host the 2026 tournament as part of a joint bid with Mexico and Canada.

“Even in earlier days when our countries had differences, our leaders and their advisers met,” Mr Bolton added. “I think that was good for both countries, good for stability in the world, and President Trump feels very strongly on that subject.”

Mr Bolton also met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, defence minister Sergei Shoigu and Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, then joined the meeting with Mr Putin.

The Russian leader had two brief meetings with Mr Trump on the sidelines of international summits last year. He and Trump discussed their mutual desire for a full-fledged one-on-one summit during a March telephone call.

Planning for the meeting was delayed amid the investigations of alleged collusion between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Mr Ushakov said Mr Trump and Mr Putin are expected to issue a joint statement.

The discussions with Mr Bolton touched on the state of bilateral ties, nuclear arms control, Syria, Ukraine, North Korea and Washington’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal – topics Mr Ushakov said would shape the summit agenda.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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