Two-hour Trump, Putin meeting in Helsinki ends on ‘very good start’

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Helsinki, July 16: US President Donald Trump described his one-on-one meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin as a “good start” on Monday.
Trump made the brief remarks in front of reporters, at a conference table surrounded by top officials at the start of a “working lunch” that began after he and Putin met behind closed doors for two hours with only their interpreters.
Trump and Putin began one-on-one talks Monday at an exceptionally awkward time, just days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents on charges of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But Trump blamed the United States for the tensions between the countries, not Russia.
Trump, bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief despite allegations of Russian meddling in US politics, went into the summit blaming “stupidity” by his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.
Looking sombre, the two leaders exchanged a few opening remarks in front of the press at the start of their summit in Helsinki.
Putin, basking in congratulations from Trump and other world leaders for the successful staging of the World Cup in Russia, said: “The time has come to talk in a substantive way about our relations and problem areas of the world.”
Before the two leaders went into a first session between just themselves and their interpreters, Trump said the summit would cover “everything from trade to military to missiles to nuclear to China”.
“Frankly, we have not been getting along for the last number of years. And I really think the world wants to see us get along. We are the two great nuclear powers,” he said.
“I’ve not been here too long (as president), it’s getting close to two years, but we’ll be having an extraordinary relationship, I hope so.”
Shortly before the summit opened, Trump was asked if he would press Putin over Russia’s alleged manipulation of the 2016 election that brought the mercurial property tycoon to power. He said only: “We’ll do just fine.”
Many US critics had called for the summit’s cancellation after new revelations surrounding the alleged election meddling.
But Trump has insisted it is “a good thing to meet”, as he attempts to replicate with Putin the sort of personal rapport he proclaims with the autocratic leaders of China and North Korea. (Agencies)