Kremlin: ‘Work Hasn’t Started Yet’ for Trump-Putin Washington Summit

U.S. President Donald Trump, left and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk during their meeting in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Monday, July 16, 2018. Trump and Putin arrived Monday at Helsinki's presidential palace for a long-awaited summit, hours after Trump blamed the United States, and not Russian election meddling or …
Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP

A Kremlin aide told reporters Tuesday that no formal work has begun on a summit the Trump administration proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, instead stating that “there are other options” for the two to meet outside of the United States.

President Donald Trump invited Putin for a summit in Washington to continue the conversation the two began at their first one-on-one summit in Helsinki, Finland, last week. Among the topics the two are believed to have discussed are the ongoing civil war in Syria and China’s growing economic and diplomatic clout in its region.

Russia has not provided a definitive answer on whether Putin will visit Washington. Instead, when asked on Tuesday, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov that Moscow had made no efforts to prepare for that meeting, according to Russian news agency TASS.

“There was no discussion of future contacts at the Helsinki meeting but several days later the United States suggested hosting the next summit in Washington at the end of the year,” Ushakov confirmed. “The offer was conveyed by US National Security Adviser John Bolton. Trump also touched upon this matter in his statements. As for practical steps to prepare the meeting, work hasn’t started yet.”

Ushakov noted that Trump and Putin may soon meet outside of a formal summit, noting that both are expected to attend the G20 summit in Argentina this year. “Putin and Trump may also meet at other international forums they will participate in, such possibilities will surely be discussed,” Ushakov said.

The aide added that conversations between American and Russian officials are continuing whether or not Putin and Trump meet again soon.

“There was news that [National Security Adviser John] Bolton was ready to meet with Russian officials … to continue discussing the outcome of the Helsinki summit and consider the prospects for future cooperation in a number of fields,” he told reporters. “I don’t know where the meeting will be held, it hasn’t been confirmed yet.”

Shortly after the July 16 summit between the two leaders, Trump took to Twitter to announce that he was excited about the second such meeting between the two. “I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed,” he wrote.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed to reporters that Bolton sent a request to invite Putin to Washington in the fall “and those discussions are already underway.”

Russian Ambassador to America Anatoly Antonov responded to the invite by saying that his country “was always open to such proposals. We are ready for discussions on this subject.” He insisted that only the Kremlin could formally accept the invite.

Reuters described Ushakov’s official remarks on the summit as “coy,” not a confirmation that Putin would be interested in such an arrangement. It noted that Russian state television “expressed unease about the idea of Putin and Trump meeting in Washington, recalling how the U.S. leader had humiliated other foreign leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, on home soil.”

During Macron’s state visit in April, Trump vocally rejected Macron’s public remarks on the usefulness of the Iran nuclear deal and ultimately withdrew, which Macron had claimed he would urge Trump not to do. Mainstream media observers were more transfixed, however, by how Trump appeared to brush dandruff off of Macron’s lapel during an exchange at the White House.

The State Department has repeatedly insisted that the Russian and American governments did not come to any concrete agreements during the Helsinki summit. Russia has taken actions that appear favorable to American foreign policy interests since then in Syria, however.

Most recently, an Israeli official said that Russia had offered to help keep Iranian troops — in Syria to defend the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad — as far away from Golan Heights as possible. The Russian Defense Ministry also proposed a joint plan with America this week to help Syrian refugees come home, which, according to Russian General Mikhail Mizintsev, would “take into account the agreements reached by the Russian and American presidents during their meeting in Helsinki.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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