Prospects for Putin-Trump meeting at APEC summit unclear

By Reuters   November 9, 2017 | 01:13 am PT
Prospects for Putin-Trump meeting at APEC summit unclear
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Carlos Barria/File Photo
'There’s never been an agreement, certainly not to a full bilat(eral).'

Prospects for a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. counterpart Donald Trump at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam this week were unclear after contradictory statements from the two sides.

Putin and Trump, who had their first face-to-face meeting in July to discuss allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, are both planning to attend this week's summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang.

The Kremlin, which wants to try to improve battered U.S.-Russia ties, says it has been trying to set up a meeting and Trump told Fox News before his Asia tour that he might meet Putin in Vietnam to talk about Syria, Ukraine and North Korea.

Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told Russian news agencies on Thursday that such a meeting would happen on Friday.

"Right now the time of the meeting is being agreed. It will be on the tenth (of November)," Ushakov told agencies.

But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a visit to Beijing with Trump, said no decision on whether Trump and Putin would have formal talks had yet been taken.

Tillerson also questioned whether the two men would have enough to talk about to justify such a meeting.

“There’s never been an agreement, certainly not to a full bilat(eral),” said Tillerson, who said it would not be unusual however if the two men had a spontaneous "pull-aside meeting" chat if they bumped into each other.

“The question is whether we’ve got sufficient substance (for a more formal meeting) and we’re working with the Russians as you know on a number of difficult areas," said Tillerson.

"We’re in contact with them and the view’s that the two leaders are going to meet if there’s something sufficiently substantive to talk about that would warrant a formal meeting.”

Putin and Trump first got together at a G20 summit in Hamburg in July when they discussed accusations of Russian interference in the U.S. election but agreed to focus on better relations rather than litigating the past.

But ties have soured further since then.

Trump in August grudgingly signed off on new sanctions against Russia, a move Moscow said ended hopes for better relations. Putin ordered Washington to cut its embassy and consular staff in Russia by more than half.

Tensions have also flared over the conflict in Syria.

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