Russia says Trump accepted Putin’s denial of election-hacking; U.S. says they didn’t
Sergey Lavrov made the claim to reporters following Trump and Putin’s lengthy meeting on the sidelines of an international summit in Germany.
That account appears at odds with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s description of the meeting.
Tillerson said the president was “rightly focused on how do we move forward from what may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point.”
Tillerson said the president pressed Putin on the issue and that they’d agreed to follow-up meetings.
That includes a new working group on cybersecurity and election interference.
Tillerson says, “the meeting was very constructive” and that the two leaders “connected very quickly.”
The two spent more than two hours meeting Friday on the sidelines of a world leaders’ summit.
State Department spokesman RC Hammond says that the meeting in Hamburg, Germany lasted two hours and 16 minutes. It had originally been scheduled for just 30 minutes.
Trump’s decision to raise the issue directly with Putin fulfilled ardent demands by U.S. lawmakers of both parties that the president not shy away from the issue in his highly anticipated meeting with Putin. Trump has avoided stating unequivocally in the past that Russia interfered, even as investigations proceed into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who sought to help him win.
Still looking back, though, the Russians asked for “proof and evidence” of Moscow’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election. Just a day earlier, Trump had said Russia probably meddled in the election, but that other countries likely did, too.
WATCH: G20: Trump, Putin share warm handshake in 1st meeting of world leaders
With the world watching closely for signs of their emerging rapport, Trump and Putin shook hands firmly but briefly as reporters were allowed in briefly for part of their meeting. Seated in front of a Russian flag, Putin slightly hunched in his chair and rubbed his fingers together as he listened to Trump, who appeared informal and relaxed and said it was “an honour” to be with Putin.
“We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everybody concerned,” Trump said.
Putin, too, described the mere fact they were meeting as positive, adding that he hoped it would “yield positive results.”
“Phone conversations are never enough definitely,” Putin said. “If you want to have a positive outcome in bilaterals and be able to resolve most international policy issues, that will really need personal meetings.”
The meeting, originally scheduled for 35 minutes, clocked in at 2 hours and 16 minutes.
“There was so much to talk about,” said Tillerson. “Neither one of them wanted to stop.”
He added that at one point, aides sent in first lady Melania Trump to try to wrap things up, but the meeting went on another hour after that, “so clearly she failed.”
READ MORE: U.S., Russia reach ceasefire deal in Syria
In their meeting, the two also discussed a ceasefire deal for southwestern Syria that was reached by Russia and the United States and first reported Friday by The Associated Press. Though the U.S. and Russia have held conflicting views on Syria in the past, Tillerson said Russia had an interest in seeing the Mideast nation become a stable place.
Though Tillerson said details about the ceasefire need to be worked out, Lavrov said that Russian military police will monitor the ceasefire, with a monitoring centre set up in Jordan – another party to the deal.
Both the Russians and the Americans took pains to describe the meeting as “constructive,” cordial and wide-ranging, covering key topics including cyber security and North Korea. Still, Tillerson said no next meeting for Putin and Trump had been scheduled.
“The two leaders connected very quickly. There was a very clear positive chemistry,” said Tillerson. The former Exxon Mobil CEO has done business in Russia and is one of the only senior members of Trump’s administration who has prior experience dealing with Putin.
WATCH MORE: Trump and Putin meet at G20
The heavily anticipated meeting has been closely scrutinized for signs of how friendly a rapport Trump and Putin will have. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, had notoriously strained ties to Putin, and Trump has expressed an interest in a better U.S.-Russia relationship.
But deep skepticism about Russia in the U.S. and ongoing investigations into whether Trump’s campaign co-ordinated with Moscow during last year’s election have made a U.S.-Russia detente politically risky for Trump.
The Putin meeting came midway through a hectic, four-day European visit for Trump, who addressed thousands of Poles in an outdoor speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday. He met in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit host, and had dinner with two Asian allies – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in – to discuss North Korea’s aggression.
© 2017 The Canadian Press