President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged cooperation in fighting the IS, the two sides said, as they seek to ease tension after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its support for Syria, and allegations that Russian hackers sought to sway the US election.
“The positive call was a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair,” the White House said in a statement. Putin told Trump he “sees the US as a most important partner in the fight against international terrorism,” according to a readout of the call from the Kremlin that described the conversation as “positive and businesslike.”
The conversation, one of several Trump held with world leaders on Saturday, was the among the first formal steps in his effort to reset relations with the Kremlin, which soured under the Barack Obama administration after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in his fight against rebel groups. Trump’s critics have questioned the wisdom of his calls for better ties with Putin, especially in light of the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia hacked e-mails of the Democratic National Committee in a bid to swing the November election in Trump’s favor.
Trump has said he would consider easing financial penalties imposed by the US over the annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014 in exchange for Russia’s support on a nuclear weapons deal or fighting terror groups like the IS. Critics have argued that Russia’s support of Assad has nothing to do with IS fighters based there, pointing to its air war that has focused on rebels around Aleppo not affiliated with the group.
‘Active Joint Efforts’
Vice President Mike Pence participated in the call with Putin along with senior counselor Stephen Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus, national security adviser Michael Flynn and press secretary Sean Spicer. The White House said the call lasted about an hour.
“In the course of the conversation, both sides demonstrated a desire for active joint efforts to stabilize and develop Russia-American relations on a constructive, equitable and mutually beneficial basis,” the Kremlin said. “The importance was underlined of restoring mutually beneficial trade and economic ties between business on both sides.”
There was no mention from either government about the wide-ranging US sanctions targeting Russia’s banking, energy, and defense sectors. Some were imposed via executive order by Obama which Trump has the power to undo quickly. The two leaders didn’t discuss the lifting of sanctions, Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax on Saturday. rump downplayed the possibility of sanctions relief during a press conference on Friday, saying, “We’ll see what happens. As far as the sanctions, very early to be talking about that.”
Also Saturday, Trump spoke with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, French President Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Hollande said the sanctions on Russia must only be lifted if progress is made on the Minsk agreement aimed at bringing peace to Ukraine, according to his office. He told Trump that “the defense of democracies requires observing fundamental principles and among these are welcoming refugees,” a criticism
of the president’s executive order, signed Friday.
European leaders oppose Trump
travel ban, far right applauds
BERLIN / AP
The leaders of Britain and Germany joined other American allies on Sunday in criticizing President Donald Trump’s US entry ban for people from some Muslim-majority countries, even as far-right politicians on the continent celebrated the move.
A spokesman for Theresa May said the British Prime Minister does “not agree” with Trump’s order and will challenge the US government if it has an adverse effect on British nationals. The official comment came after May refused to condemn the ban during a visit to Turkey to meet with Turkish leaders. She said in Turkey the decision was a matter solely for the US.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also regrets the travel ban.
“She is convinced that even the necessary, resolute fight against terrorism doesn’t justify putting people of a particular origin or particular faith under general suspicion,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said.