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Trump invited Putin to visit US, but no date set

China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-04 09:30
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MOSCOW - An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that US President Donald Trump had invited the Russian leader to the White House when they spoke by telephone last month, but the two countries haven't started any preparations for such a visit.

Trump and Putin had a telephone conversation on March 20 in which Trump congratulated Putin on winning the Russian presidential election two days earlier. The White House and the Kremlin said at the time the two presidents discussed meeting in person.

Trump specifically invited Putin to the White House during the call, Putin aide Yuri Ushakov told Russian news agencies on Monday.

"Trump suggested to have the first meeting in Washington, in the White House," he said, calling it a "quite interesting and positive idea".

If it happens, Putin would be getting the honor of an Oval Office tete-a-tete for the first time since he met president George W. Bush at the White House in 2005.

"It would confer a certain normalization of relations and we're certainly not in a normal space," said Alina Polyakova, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Nothing about this is normal."

However, their governments didn't have time to start arranging a meeting before the United States joined Britain and more than two dozen allies in expelling more than 150 Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, the former spy, and his daughter Yulia, Ushakov said. Moscow has denied any involvement in the nerve attack and retaliated by expelling the same number of diplomats from each nation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday suggested that the poisoning could benefit the British government by distracting attention from problems around Brexit.

"This could be in the interests of the British government, which found itself in an uncomfortable situation having failed to fulfill promises to its electorate about the conditions for Brexit," Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow, referring to Britain's planned departure from the European Union.

Potential venues

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump invited Putin to Washington during the call, but said the White House was among "a number of potential venues" the two leaders discussed for a bilateral meeting.

"As the president himself confirmed on March 20, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the 'not-too-distant future' at a number of potential venues, including the White House," Sanders said, adding that the administration had no further comment on the matter.

Trump has met Putin twice as president, at the G20 summit in Germany last summer and briefly at the Asia-Pacific economic summit in Vietnam in November.


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