Thursday 27 July 2017

Trump and Putin have 'robust and lengthy' discussion about election meddling in first meeting

  • Trump raises concerns first thing at historic first meeting
  • Election intereference was first subject Trump raised - Tillerson
  • Moscow says Trump 'accepted Putin's denial of meddling in US elections'
  • Cease-fire in South West Syria also agreed
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Donald Trump shakes hands with Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Hamburg (German government/AP)

Darlene Superville and Ken Thomas

President Donald Trump opened his first meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday by raising US concerns about Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential election, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said.

He said Mr Putin denied being involved.

Mr Trump's decision to confront Mr Putin directly over election interference fulfilled ardent demands by US politicians of both parties that the president not shy away from the issue in his highly anticipated meeting with Mr Putin.

Mr Trump has avoided stating unequivocally in the past that Russia interfered, even as investigations proceed into whether Mr Trump's campaign colluded with Russians who sought to help him win.

Mr Putin's denial of culpability notwithstanding, he and Mr Trump agreed that the issue has become a hindrance to better relations between the two powers, said Mr Tillerson, who attended the more-than-two-hour meeting along with Russia's foreign minister.

Mr Tillerson said the discussion about the election meddling was "robust and lengthy".

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Tillerson said the two leaders had agreed to continue the discussion, with an eye toward securing a commitment that Russia will not interfere in US affairs in the future.

"I think the president is rightly focused on how do we move forward from something that may be an intractable disagreement at this point," Mr Tillerson said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Larov, said Mr Trump accepted Mr Putin's denials.

In their meeting, the two also discussed a ceasefire deal for southwestern Syria that was reached by Russia and the United States and first reported on Friday by The Associated Press.

Though the US and Russia have held conflicting views on Syria in the past, Mr Tillerson said Russia had an interest in seeing the Mideast nation become a stable place.

The heavily anticipated meeting has been closely scrutinised for signs of how friendly a rapport Mr Trump and Mr Putin will have.

Mr Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, had strained ties to Mr Putin, and Mr Trump has expressed an interest in a better US-Russia relationship.

But deep scepticism about Russia in the US and ongoing investigations into whether Mr Trump's campaign coordinated with Moscow during last year's election have made a US-Russia detente politically risky for Trump.

The Putin meeting came midway through a hectic, four-day European visit for Mr Trump, who addressed thousands of Poles in an outdoor speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday.

He met in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit host, and had dinner with two Asian allies, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to discuss North Korea's aggression.

Press Association

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