By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The United States and Russia have agreed to hold a summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, with Trump telling reporters he will bring up the war in Syria and the crisis in Ukraine.
Trump’s brief comments to reporters on June 27 in Washington came after U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told a news conference in Moscow that the White House and Kremlin would make simultaneous announcements on June 28 to specify when and where the meeting would be held.
Trump suggested the summit — the first full-fledged meeting between the two presidents since Trump took office in January 2017 — could take place after the July 11-12 NATO summit in Brussels, possibly in Helsinki.
Vienna has also been cited as a possible venue.
Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov earlier in the day said the meeting would be held in a third country that is convenient for both sides.
Speaking after holding talks with Putin, Bolton said Trump will raise a “full range of issues” with Russia’s leader, including alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Moscow has denied, and the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
Before Bolton’s meeting with Putin, the Russian president said he regretted that ties between the former Cold War foes are “not in the best shape” and suggested their dire state is due in large part to what he called “the internal political struggle” in the United States — indicating he does not blame Trump for the disagreements.
Bolton told the news conference that “both President Trump and President Putin feel that it is important for these two leaders of these critically important countries to get together and discuss their mutual problems and areas of cooperation.”
“It is something that both feel will contribute to the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship and civility around the world,” he added.
The planned meeting is likely to worry some U.S. allies and draw criticism from Trump’s opponents at home, including most vehemently from many Democrats, who have accused Trump of having colluded with Moscow to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to support his candidacy against that of rival Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t think it’s anything unusual for President Trump and President Putin to meet. If you just look meetings in the past year, the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Greece, Finland, Austria, Belgium, and Italy have all had bilateral meetings with President Putin,” Bolton said.
“President Trump felt, and I think President Putin agreed, now is the time for the two of them to get together,” Bolton said, adding that he believes the accusations of election meddling will be a “subject of conversation” between Trump and Putin.
In a sometimes contentious news conference, a Western reporter reminded Bolton that before joining the U.S. administration, he had called Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election a “true act of war.”
Bolton did not answer directly, saying only that he would not address what he had written in the past. “Right now, I’m an adviser to President Trump,” he said, and it is his agenda that is important.
On Ukraine, when asked whether Trump would recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Bolton responded by saying, “That is not the position of the United States.”
He added that the United States believes that sanctions placed on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine should stay in place.
He did say, however, that it was possible Trump and Putin would discuss the U.S. president’s remarks that Russia should be allowed back in to the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrial nations, as he suggested last month in Canada.
Russia was expelled from the grouping, known then as the G8, for its interference in Ukraine and its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo separately told a Senate committee on June 27 that Trump believes Moscow’s participation in any “important geostrategic conversations is inevitable” and that there could be “trade-offs” that would allow Russia back into the G7.
Pompeo was not specific, but he stressed that the U.S. position remains that Russia illegally annexed Crimea and that Trump would emphasize to Putin that Russian meddling in U.S. elections was unacceptable
Among actions taken by Washington against Moscow for its alleged meddling in the presidential election was the seizure of several Russian diplomatic sites in the United States.
When asked by a Russian reporter when the United States would return the properties that were “illegally” seized, Bolton said the “premise” of the question was wrong and that the sites were not taken “illegally.”
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