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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Trump and Putin met at Hamburg summit twice, White House confirms

In a flurry of activity, the Trump administration reveals an additional presidential meeting at the G20 and names the US pick for Moscow envoy

In addition to a bilateral summit at the G20 summit in Hamburg, presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held a further informal meeting over a dinner REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
In addition to a bilateral summit at the G20 summit in Hamburg, presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held a further informal meeting over a dinner REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

The White House has confirmed that American president Donald Trump did actually meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on two occasions at the Hamburg G20 summit earlier this month.

Previously, the Trump administration had only acknowledged one such meeting between the two men; a formal, two-hour session took place in which they discussed the politically contentious issue of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

It has now been revealed that the pair shared a second meeting at the summit when they spent close to an hour engaging in a face-to-face discussion.

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The Washington Post reports that “the second meeting ... took place at a dinner for G-20 leaders, a senior administration official said. Halfway through the meal, Trump left his own seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Trump was alone, and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter.”

According to the newspaper, the latest revelation of the American administration’s willing to cosy up to Russia “underscores the extent to which Trump was eager throughout the summit to cultivate a friendship with Putin.

“Meeting each other face-to-face for the first time in Hamburg, the two presidents seemed to have a chemistry in their more formal bilateral session, evidenced by the fact that it dragged on for more than two hours.”

As has become his normal response, Mr Trump took to Twitter to dismiss the reports as "fake news", and branded the story as "sick".

On a busy Tuesday for the White House, perhaps eager to seize back the news agenda after moves to repeal Obamacare were defeated in the Senate, it was also announced that president Trump will nominate Jon Huntsman, previously ambassador to China under Barack Obama, as US ambassador to Russia.

Huntsman’s appointment, which had been widely trailed has to be confirmed by the Senate, which is investigating the Trump administration over accusations of collusion with Russian nationals during last year’s presidential campaign.

Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah, was America’s envoy to China from 2009 to 2011 and has served in the administrations of five presidents of both parties. He stood as a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

When initial reports of his possible appointment surfaced, there was a mixed reaction from Moscow, with one politician observing that Huntsman was “not a dove” while the Kremlin said anyone who was a “convinced proponent” of establishing a dialogue with Russia would be welcomed.