Putin-Trump Meeting Ends After Extending To More Than Two Hours
RFE/RL July 07, 2017
HAMBURG, Germany -- U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up their talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, with the meeting extending to more than two hours from a scheduled 35 minutes.
White House officials on July 7 said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the meeting along with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, will likely deliver an off-camera briefing to reporters at some point after the meeting, according to U.S. media reports.
In brief comments to the press before the meeting, Trump, sitting next to Putin, said he was looking forward to a "lot of very positive things" for Moscow and Washington.
Trump said it was "an honor" to meet with his Russian counterpart, while Putin said he was "delighted" to meet the American president.
They did not respond to questions shouted by journalists before leaving to begin their private session.
The meeting, the first face-to-face sit-down between the two men since Trump took office in January, comes amid a deepening crisis in bilateral relations over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, as well as alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
"President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it's going very well," Trump said, adding that the two leaders were "going to have talks now."
The meeting also came as tensions simmered among major industrialized countries meeting in Hamburg, most notably over trade and climate change, and amid street clashes between police and anticapitalist protesters that have rocked the northern port city.
Trump said on Twitter ahead of the talks that he is looking forward to meeting with Putin and other world leaders, adding that there is "much to discuss."
Video footage showed Putin and Trump briefly shaking hands at the G20 venue earlier in the day, with both men smiling and the U.S. president patting Putin on the back.
Trump has repeatedly called for improving ties with Moscow, though his administration has continued to publicly maintain pressure on Russia -- including with sanctions -- over its seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Trump's administration has also been dogged by the assessment of U.S. intelligence officials that the Kremlin ordered a hacking and propaganda campaign aimed at helping Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- an allegation the Kremlin denies.
Both the U.S. Congress and the FBI are investigating the alleged hacking and contacts between associates of the U.S. president and Russian officials.
In a speech in Warsaw on July 6 meeting with Putin, Trump called on Russia to "cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere" and stressed Washington's commitment to NATO, which Putin has long accused of stoking tensions in Eastern Europe.
But Trump also downplayed the consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, and many Republicans and Democrats in Congress, that Moscow actively meddled in the election that he ended up winning.
"Nobody really knows for sure," Trump told a news conference in Warsaw on July 6 when asked about the allegations of Russian interference.
Sitting next to Trump before the press on July 7, Putin noted that while the two leaders had previously spoken by telephone, personal meetings were much more effective in dealing with "sensitive" global issues.
Outside the G20 venue, clashes between protesters and police continued on the streets of Hamburg, where police said rioters attacked a police station, torched police cars, and attacked security at a hotel where Putin and other foreign leaders were staying.
The local fire brigade reported at least 11 protesters were seriously injured while attempting to flee police by leaping over a fence.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the violent protests aimed at disrupting the summit were "unacceptable."
Hamburg police said a demonstrator also fired a fired a flare gun at a police helicopter, narrowly missing the aircraft.
Police spokesman Andy Grote told reporters on July 7 that 45 protesters had been detained and an additional 15 taken into custody. By the earlier afternoon on July 7, Grote said 160 police officers had been injured during several days of protests -- mostly with minor injuries.
The street demonstrations and violence left U.S. First Lady Melania Trump stranded at her residence in Hamburg on July 7, preventing her from attending an event on climate change for spouses of political leaders.
"The Hamburg police could not give us clearance to leave [the residence]," Trump's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, was quoted by AFP as saying.
About 13,000 protesters took to the streets on July 6, including about 1,000 black-clad and masked anarchists. Police expect as many as 100,000 protesters to descend on the port city during the weekend summit. Germany has deployed some 20,000 police to provide security.
Trade And Climate Tensions
Meanwhile, tensions continued to simmer among G20 leaders as the first day of the gathering came to an end.
Merkel said nearly all the leaders agreed the need for free and fair trade, but she added that some differences are making difficult the drafting of the summit's final communique.
"On the issue of trade, virtually everyone believes we need free but also fair trade," she said. "However, I can predict that as far as trade is concerned in the communique, the [political aides] have a lot of work ahead of them tonight."
After a July 6 meeting between Merkel and Trump, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said "clear differences" on climate change and trade continued to divide the two allies, though they also found "many commonalities."
"The question is whether the Americans remain convinced that the only thing that counts on global trade is whether America is the winner or not," Gabriel told public broadcaster ARD.
"Or can we manage to convince the Americans that if everyone plays by the same rules, then this will be best for everyone," he said.
The G20 leaders used to routinely issue pledges to fight protectionism, but Trump's "America First" trade policy has hampered consensus among world leaders on globalization and trade since he took office.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on July 7 that the EU would respond should Washington decide to impose punitive tariffs on steel, although he did not give specifics.
The group appeared unlikely to be able to reach a consensus on climate change as well, as world leaders stepped up pressure on Trump in the wake of his withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
"We are not renegotiating the Paris agreement, that stays. But I want to see the U.S. looking for ways to rejoin it," British Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC.
Merkel said that "it will be very interesting to see how we formulate the communique tomorrow and make clear that, of course, there are different opinions in this area because the United States of America regrettably...wants to withdraw from the Paris accord."
With reporting by RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak in Hamburg, AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters, and TASS
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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