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Trump, Putin to Meet in Helsinki

The White House and Kremlin have agreed to stage a summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Helsinki
US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin met at the APEC Summit  in Danang, Vietnam on Nov. 11, 2017.US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin met at the APEC Summit  in Danang, Vietnam on Nov. 11, 2017.
Trump will meet Putin after attending a July 11-12 summit of NATO leaders and a visit to Britain. The date will give Putin a chance to attend the July 15 closing ceremony of the soccer World Cup hosted by Russia

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet for their first summit on July 16 in Helsinki, a venue famed for its Cold War diplomacy.

The Kremlin and the White House simultaneously announced the place and date a day after reaching agreement for the two leaders to meet following a visit to Moscow by US national security adviser John Bolton.

Trump will meet Putin after attending a July 11-12 summit of NATO leaders and a visit to Britain. The date will give Putin a chance to attend the July 15 closing ceremony of the soccer World Cup hosted by Russia, Reuters reported.

The two leaders have met twice before on the sidelines of international gatherings and spoken at least eight times by phone. They have also made positive comments about each other now and then with Putin lauding Trump's handling of the US economy.

The summit could irritate US allies, such as Britain, who want to isolate Putin, or countries such as Ukraine who are nervous about what they see as Trump's overly friendly attitude toward the Russian leader.

It is also likely to go down badly among critics who question Trump's commitment to the NATO alliance and who have been concerned about his frictions with longtime allies such as Canada and Germany over trade policy.

>Move to Defuse Tensions

"The president is pursuing this meeting in the interest of national security and to determine whether Russia is willing to make progress in our relationship," White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One, adding that Trump hoped it would "help reduce tension."

Relations between Washington and Moscow became the most strained since the end of the Cold War during the administration of President Barack Obama who imposed sanctions against Russia.

The summit is also a boost for Finland, whose capital hosted major Cold War summits between leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev and Gerald Ford in 1975, and Mikhail Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush in 1990, as well as a meeting between Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton in 1997.

>Pragmatic Relations

Moscow hopes the Helsinki summit will restart a dialogue between Washington and Moscow, said Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations.

"We need each other, not because we want to love each other. We don't want and we don't need to be loved. We simply need to hold normal, pragmatic relations with a major country upon which—like what lies upon us—a lot in the world depends," Nebenzia told a news conference at the United Nations.

Nebenzia said he expects the summit to primarily focus on US-Russia relations, but that "we will not be able to avoid" the civil war in Syria, the 2015 international accord on Iran's nuclear program, which Trump has repudiated, and the Ukraine crisis.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg played down worries about the summit saying it was in line with the alliance's own policies which advocated dialogue with Moscow.

Trump has long expressed a desire for better relations with Russia, even as Washington tightens sanctions against the country, and the Kremlin has long pushed for a summit.

Moscow made no secret on Wednesday of its delight that such a meeting had finally been agreed with Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov saying on Wednesday that the two men were likely to talk for several hours. He spoke of a possible joint declaration on improving US-Russia relations and international security.

"Even small steps in reducing tensions would be in everybody's interest," remarked Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who said he hoped Putin and Trump would discuss arms control and heed his own concerns about tensions in the Baltic Sea region.

 

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