Moscow (AFP) – US President Donald Trump proposed a White House summit when he called Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, prior to the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from the US, a top Kremlin aide said Monday.
“Trump proposed holding a meeting at the White House in Washington,” Putin’s top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, told reporters.
On March 20, Trump called Putin to congratulate him on his re-election, and the US leader told reporters afterwards that the two would “probably get together in the not-too-distant future.”
In calling Putin, Trump ignored explicit advice from his national security advisers not to do so, The Washington Post has reported, quoting officials familiar with the call.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Monday the two leaders had discussed a bilateral meeting “at a number of potential venues, including the White House.”
“We have nothing further to add at this time,” she said.
A senior US administration official said separately that “it’s obviously in their interest” to publicise the summit invitation as Putin’s risks deeper international isolation after the Skripal attack.
The official added that planning for the controversial meeting had not yet begun.
Ushakov also said that the two sides had not had any “concrete discussions” about the summit since that rare Trump-Putin phone conversation.
“It was Trump himself who proposed holding the meeting,” Ushakov said.
“But after that a new breakdown in our bilateral ties has taken place, the diplomats have been expelled.”
He expressed the hope that Russia and the United States could return to “constructive and serious dialogue.”
After the call, Washington expelled 60 Russian diplomats and shut down a Russian consulate in Seattle, joining Britain’s allies in responding to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.
Moscow responded by sending home 60 US diplomats and closing Washington’s consulate in Saint Petersburg.
Washington has, however, said Russia is free to apply to accredit more diplomats to replace those expelled.