Russian President Vladimir Putin briefly meets with his American counterpart, Donald Trump, in the French capital as tensions pile up between Moscow and Washington over a range of issues, especially the United States’ recent plan to walk away from a key Cold War-era arms control treaty.
The meeting took place at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Sunday on the sidelines of the ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I attended by around 70 world leaders.
Putin later said he had a good conversation with Trump, without providing more details.
The Kremlin later said the two leaders had exchanged pleasantries during the working lunch, and that no specific issue had been discussed.
White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, however, said President Trump, in his talks with world leaders, had “discussed a variety of issues, including the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty), Syria, trade, the situation in Saudi Arabia, sanctions, Afghanistan, China, and North Korea.”
She said Trump had sat with President Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at lunch, and the group had held “very good and productive discussions.”
Earlier in the day, Putin told French RT that he had “agreed not to violate the host’s work schedule. We will not organize any meetings here at their request.”
The Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said the prospect of a full meeting between Trump and Putin had prompted huge international media interest, leading to concerns from the French organizers that this could overshadow the Paris event.
Trump sparked worries globally last month when he announced he would be pulling the US out of the INF – which had been signed towards the end of Cold War in 1987 — and vowed to rebuild the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Russian warns that it will raise the issue of US withdrawal from a landmark nuclear arms control pact in the UNSC, if the US quits.
The treaty — seen as a milestone in ending the Cold War arms race between the two superpowers — banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers and led to the elimination of nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles.
Moscow has warned that it would be forced to respond in kind and act to restore the balance of military power should Washington choose to exit the agreement.
Trump’s decision has also raised fears in Europe of a new arms race, which could put the security of the entire continent in danger.
Peskov said late Sunday that both Russia and Europe were alarmed by Trump’s decision.
“Europeans are concerned about the situation with short-range and medium-range missiles, we are concerned. The fate of this document is unclear, and most importantly — what will happen next with these missiles, it is also not clear. Therefore, it is needed to sit down and talk,” he said.
In his interview with RT, Putin said Russia was open to dialog with the US over the future of the INF.
“It is more important to maintain dialogue not even at a top or high level but at a level of experts. I hope a comprehensive negotiating process will be resumed,” said the Russian head of state.
Full Trump-Putin meeting expected on G20 sidelines
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sunday that the two presidents are expected to meet on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Argentina later this month.
“There are many issues on the agenda and the presidents will discuss what they believe to be necessary,” Lavrov said.
The Kremlin’s spokesman, however, said there were no “concrete agreements” on the potential meeting.
The US and Russian presidents hailed their summit in Helsinki, saying they would have more dialogue in the future.
“Circumstances keep changing for our US colleagues; we might also have some changes. So there are no concrete agreements at the moment, we cannot say anything with certainty,” he explained.
He also said that the number of issues on the agenda kept growing as the “deficit of mutual trust” was rising in the Moscow-Washington ties as well.
The two presidents met at a one-on-one summit for the first time in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, back in July, when they discussed a variety of issues, including limiting nuclear arsenals or ending the Syrian war.