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White House says Trump 'open' to Putin meeting

By REN QI | China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-30 07:58
US President Donald Trump receives a soccer ball from Russian President Vladimir Putin after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Friday that he has invited his US counterpart Donald Trump to Moscow for a second face-to-face meeting and that he was ready to come to Washington.

During the BRICS economic summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Putin said he and Trump had discussed at their meeting last week in Helsinki topics that "concern very many countries around the world and, including, all of Europe", and buttered up his US counterpart with flattery.

"We are ready to invite President Trump to Moscow. He has, by the way, such an invitation, I told him about it," Putin said.

Putin emphasized that the Russian side is ready for further negotiations with the US at the highest levels.

"And I'm ready to come to Washington if appropriate conditions for work are created," he said.

"The big plus of president Trump is that he strives to fulfill the promises, above all, given to voters," Putin added.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded on the same day that the president is open to Putin's request and anticipates the Russian president visiting Washington early next year.

"President Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year, and he is open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation," Sanders said.

'Witch hunt'

On Wednesday, Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said that a Washington-based meeting between Trump and Putin would be put off until 2019 because of special counsel Robert Mueller's "witch hunt".

"The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we've agreed that it will be after the first of the year," Bolton said in a statement that was notable for the senior adviser's use of the term "witch hunt" when discussing diplomatic matters.

Putin's remarks come just one week after Trump and Putin met for a summit in Helsinki, Finland, but contradict comments made from top aides to each leader after the session that indicated a second forum was not in the works any time soon.

Alina Polyakova, a Russia expert at the Brookings Institution, said hosting Trump in Moscow gives Putin the home court advantage.

"In Washington, Trump would be surrounded by more aides, media, and the entire policy audience. In Moscow, media can be controlled. ... Putin would have the upper hand as the host," she said.

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