Seeking closer ties, Trump and Putin plan summit
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Seeking closer ties, Trump and Putin plan summit

Two leaders stress importance of joint efforts to limit an arms race and boost economic cooperation after Russian spy attack row with Britain plunges Kremlin’s relations with West

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and US President Donald Trump during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam, November 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and US President Donald Trump during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam, November 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

MOSCOW (AFP) — US President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on Tuesday discussed holding a possible summit as the American leader congratulated the Russian President on his re-election.

“I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on his electoral victory,” Trump said, two days after Putin’s re-election.

“The call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in a not-too-distant future,” he added.

The two leaders also stressed the importance of joint efforts to limit an arms race and boost economic cooperation, the Kremlin said in a statement, after a Russian spy attack row with Britain plunged relations with the West into a new crisis.

They spoke after Washington slapped a new round of sanctions on Moscow, designed to punish the Russians responsible for attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections.

Russia is also facing huge pressure from Britain and its allies to explain how its former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned on British soil with a nerve agent the UK says is Soviet-designed.

Presidential candidate President Vladimir Putin addresses the crowd during a rally and a concert celebrating the fourth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea at Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, on March 18, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

Moscow has denied being involved.

The Kremlin also said Trump had congratulated Putin.

“Special attention has been paid to working out the issue of holding a possible meeting at the highest level,” it said in a statement.

“The importance was stressed of coordinating joint efforts to limit an arms race,” it said, adding that the two leaders discussed boosting economic cooperation.

They also discussed the crises in Ukraine and Syria, stressing the importance of securing progress as soon as possible, the Kremlin said.

Pyongyang’s nuclear program was also on the agenda as Trump pushes forward with plans for a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Satisfaction has been expressed with a certain decrease in tensions around the Korean peninsula,” the Kremlin said.

“The leaders spoke out in favor of developing practical cooperation in various spheres including the issues of ensuring strategic stability and the fight against international terrorism,” the statement added.

“On the whole, the conversation was constructive and business-like,” it said, adding that its goal was to help the two countries “overcome the problems that had accumulated in Russian-US relations.”

Spy row not on agenda

The two men however did not discuss the nerve agent attack, the Kremlin said.

“No,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax news agency, when asked if the two men had touched upon the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter.

Earlier Tuesday, White House officials confirmed the call, but offered no immediate details about whether Trump offered his congratulations after an election that appears to have had significant flaws.

An activist distributes election leaflets in support of presidential candidate President Vladimir Putin on a street in downtown Moscow, on March 16, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Yuri KADOBNOV)

The White House had earlier indicated that no call with Putin was planned, and the Russian leader played down talk of a rift.

On Sunday, Putin secured a landslide victory in a presidential election that saw him return to the Kremlin for a fourth term with a record vote share of 76.66 percent.

Western leaders were slow to congratulate Putin as monitors reported ballot stuffing and other alleged cases of fraud, though fewer irregularities were reported than in previous years.

Putin said Monday he would address disputes with the West but stressed that international relations were a two-way street.

“From our side, we will do all we can so that the disputes with our partners can be resolved by political and diplomatic means,” he said.

“It goes without saying that not everything depends on us — as with love, both sides have to be involved, otherwise there can be no love at all,” he added.

On Tuesday, the Kremlin released a list of those who had sent their congratulatory messages including the leaders of Greece, Germany, Iran, the Czech Republic, Finland, Syria, and North Korea.

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