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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

US and Russia agree to Putin-Trump summit

Relations have been strained by disagreement over the Syrian conflict and Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Mr Bolton said it was important to keep talking and complimented Mr Putin on his handling of the football World Cup currently taking place in Russia. Sputnik
Mr Bolton said it was important to keep talking and complimented Mr Putin on his handling of the football World Cup currently taking place in Russia. Sputnik

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a summit with US President Donald Trump in a third country at talks on Wednesday with the US leader’s national security adviser, voicing hope for an easing of tensions.

Hawkish US envoy John Bolton was received in Moscow with top honours, a lunch hosted by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov followed by a markedly courteous meeting with Mr Putin at the Kremlin.

US-Russian relations have been strained by disagreement over the Syrian conflict, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its involvement in eastern Ukraine and allegations of political meddling.

The Kremlin’s top foreign policy aide said the pair agreed that the two presidents would meet at a place and time to be announced on Thursday.

“Your visit to Moscow gives us hope that we can at least take the first step to reviving full-blown ties between our states,” President Putin told Mr Bolton at the Kremlin, after the two smiled and shook hands for the cameras.

“We never sought confrontation,” Mr Putin said, adding he regretted that Russia-US ties were not “on top form”.

Mr Bolton, previously known for his hawkish reputation and tough stance on Moscow, said it was important to keep talking and complimented Mr Putin on his handling of the football World Cup, currently taking place in Russia.

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

Recently, ties have been strained by a probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and suspected collusion with the Trump campaign, as well as by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Back in Washington, Mr Trump said he had not yet heard a full report from Mr Bolton about plans for a summit, “but it would look like we will probably be meeting sometime in the not too distant future".

“I think we’ll be talking about Syria. I think we’ll be talking about Ukraine. I think we’ll be talking about many other subjects. And we’ll see what happens. You never know about meetings what happens, right?

“But I think a lot of good things can come with meetings with people. We had great meetings with President Xi. Every place I’ve been, we have had great meetings. So maybe something positive will come out of it,” Mr Trump said.

Some critics in Washington have expressed concern that, in his eagerness to come back from a summit with a “deal”, Mr Trump might concede too much to his Russian counterpart without getting much in return.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told US lawmakers on Wednesday that Washington regards Russia’s annexation of Crimea, intervention in Ukraine and partial occupation of Georgia as entirely illegal.

And he said he was sure that when the presidents meet “[Trump] will make clear that meddling in our elections is completely unacceptable”.

In Moscow, Mr Bolton told a news conference that the idea that a summit would prove some kind of “nexus between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin” would be “complete nonsense”.

“What must guide his conduct of American foreign policy is the pursuit of American national interests,” Mr Bolton said of Mr Trump. “He will do this regardless of political criticism at home.”

Mr Putin’s foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said the two presidents would focus on relations between their two countries, Syria and nuclear-arms control, and could adopt a joint statement to help improve ties as well as global security.

“I think [Trump] is going to raise the full range of issues between the two countries,” Mr Bolton said.

He added there were areas for co-operation, despite the major points of disagreement.