MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump plan to meet for at least an hour on the sidelines of this week’s Group of 20 summit in Japan, a Kremlin official said Wednesday, confirming plans for the first meeting between the leaders in almost a year.
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Iran would probably all be on the agenda, according to the Interfax news agency. The presidents will be joined by four or five officials each, Ushakov said.
While it was scheduled to last an hour, “many things will depend on the leaders themselves,” Ushakov said.
Trump and Putin last met in Helsinki in July 2018. That gathering was overshadowed by an uproar over Trump’s refusal to endorse his intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
Trump canceled a planned follow-up meeting late last year in Argentina on short notice, frustrating Kremlin officials. The reason Trump gave was Russia’s capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors off the coast of Crimea. The sailors remain behind bars in Russia.
But with the conclusion this year of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference, there have been signs of a possible approaching thaw in U.S.-Russian relations.
National security adviser John Bolton met with his Israeli and Russian counterparts in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Putin at the Russian president’s Black Sea summer home in May and assured him that Trump “wants to do everything we can” to improve ties.
“There are places that our two countries can find where we can be cooperative, we can be productive, we can be accumulative, we can work together to make each of our two peoples more successful and frankly the world more successful, too,” Pompeo said at the time.
But the intensity of U.S.-Russian tensions in global hotspots has only increased since then. Moscow and Washington are on opposing sides of the conflicts in Ukraine and Venezuela, and on the intensifying standoff over Iran.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday criticized the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which is an ally of Moscow.
“We will be persuading our Iranian and U.S. colleagues of the need to step back from the danger line and to settle their differences in a civilized dialogue,” Lavrov said, according to Interfax. “Of course, this means that the policy of ultimatums, sanctions and blackmail must stop.”