Sunday 28 May 2017

Putin-Trump set to speak by phone on Saturday

Traditional Russian Matryoshka dolls depicting Russian president Vladimir Putin and US leader Donald Trump (AP)
Traditional Russian Matryoshka dolls depicting Russian president Vladimir Putin and US leader Donald Trump (AP)

Russian president Vladimir Putin is set to speak by phone with his US counterpart Donald Trump over the weekend, the Kremlin said.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the conversation is scheduled for Saturday. They last spoke when Mr Putin congratulated Mr Trump shortly after his election victory last November.

Mr Peskov said the Russian president wants to congratulate Mr Trump on taking office, adding that the two leaders are also expected to "exchange views about main parameters of current bilateral relations".

He would not elaborate on what specific issues could be discussed and would no t say if the two leaders could use the call to agree on a meeting.

The Kremlin has applauded Mr Trump's promises to mend ties with Moscow, which have plunged to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the US elections.

Russian officials and parliamentarians have warned, however, that rebuilding ravaged ties will take time.

Barack Obama's administration and the European Union slapped Moscow with sanctions for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for a pro-Russia insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The restrictions have limited Russian companies' access to international financial markets and barred key technology transfers, helping drive the Russian economy into recession. Russia has responded by banning imports of most Western agricultural products.

Asked about the claims that Mr Trump is considering an order to lift the US sanctions against Russia, Mr Peskov said he has no information about it.

Mr Trump's senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said on Fox News that US sanctions against Russia and other issues would be on the table during his conversation with the Russian president.

Ms Conway also said Mr Trump will be receptive if the Russian leader wants to have a serious conversation about how to defeat Islamic extremists.

Ahead of the call, Mr Putin chaired a meeting of his security council to discuss US-Russian relations, the Kremlin said.

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now.

In an article published in Time magazine, he said: "The advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex are rubbing their hands. We need to resume political dialogue."

Warning that "the nuclear threat once again seems real", Mr Gorbachev urged Mr Trump and Mr Putin to initiate a United Nations Security Council resolution stating that "nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought".

He emphasis ed that the two leaders bear a special responsibility as "presidents of two nations that hold over 90% of the world's nuclear arsenals".

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