Saturday 15 December 2018

US president could hold Putin meeting at World Cup final

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP

Alec Luhn

US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton is travelling to Moscow to discuss a meeting between the US president and Vladimir Putin that could coincide with the World Cup final.

The timing of the summit has raised questions about whether Mr Trump, who bragged this month about bringing the 2026 World Cup to North America, could defy expectations and visit the Russian capital for the end of the 2018 tournament.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also considering coming to the game, and Mahmoud Abbas has already accepted an invitation from Mr Putin to attend, raising the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian summit at the final.

Mr Bolton will meet with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow today, the Russian side said this week.

State news agency Tass said the pair would "hold consultations about the potential meeting between the American and Russian presidents".

Garrett Marquis, a special assistant to the president and Mr Bolton's former spokesman, tweeted last week that the national security adviser would head to the Russian capital after London and Rome to discuss a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Putin.

Any summit is expected to happen when Mr Trump travels to Europe in July. He will attend a Nato summit in Brussels on July 11-12, where discussions may be strained by his decision to impose tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union, all major trade and security partners of the United States.

Then on July 13 he will begin his long-delayed visit to the UK and stay until at least the next day, holding talks with Theresa May and meeting the queen at Windsor Castle.

The World Cup final is on July 15 at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium, the main venue of the 1980 Olympic Games, which the US boycotted. The timing of the match after Mr Trump's UK visit has led to rumours that he could meet with Mr Putin on that day and perhaps even come to Moscow for the game.

The US president has been basking in football-related goodwill after Fifa awarded the 2026 World Cup to a combined bid from the US, Mexico and Canada on June 13.

Asked earlier this month whether Mr Trump would come to the World Cup, Mr Putin's spokesman said the Russian president "would be glad to see all guests here in Moscow and certainly this concerns the guests from the United States at the highest level".

© Daily Telegraph London

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