Donald Trump hails ‘tremendous meeting’ with Valdimir Putin

Donald Trump had a lengthy meeting with Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump had a lengthy meeting with Vladimir Putin
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US president Donald Trump has described his lengthy head-to-head encounter with Russian president Vladimir Putin as a “tremendous meeting”.

Mr Trump is meeting a long list of world leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May and President Xi Jinping of China, on Saturday as he wraps up his second trip abroad.

His comments about meeting Mr Putin came as he sat alongside Mrs May for a morning exchange on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany.

READ MORE: Donald Trump opens European visit in Poland

It was his first comment on the high-profile talks with Mr Putin in which he raised the issue of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US elections and discussed plans for a ceasefire agreement in Syria.

Mr Trump was expected to focus on talks to counter North Korea’s push for ballistic missile and nuclear programmes, international trade and ways to combat terrorism.

Noting his country’s “special relationship” with Great Britain, the president said he and Mrs May were working on a trade agreement that he described as a “very, very big deal, very powerful, great deal for both countries”.

Mrs May was the first foreign leader to visit Mr Trump at the White House and he told her he would soon “be going to London” once details were worked out.

His long list of meetings with world leaders includes Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore.

He also attended a women’s entrepreneurial finance event with German chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders, joined by his daughter Ivanka Trump.

Ivanka Trump and the World Bank rolled out a new fund that aims to help female entrepreneurs.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative had so far raised 325 million US dollars (£252 million) from various governments.

Mr Trump will return to Washington on Saturday evening after the conclusion of the G20 meetings but is scheduled to return to Europe next week to attend Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.

The European trip to Poland and Germany has centred around the exchange with Mr Putin, Mr Trump’s first in-person meeting as president.

Both sides offered differing explanations of what took place.

READ MORE: G20: Theresa May and Donald Trump hold talks

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said they had a “robust and lengthy” discussion about the election interference but Mr Putin denied any involvement.

His Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said Mr Trump had accepted Mr Putin’s assurances that Russia did not meddle in the US election - a characterisation the US disputed.

“I think the president is rightly focused on how do we move forward from something that may be an intractable disagreement at this point,” said Mr Tillerson, who took part in the meeting along with Mr Lavrov.

US officials have said Russia tried to hack election systems in 21 states and sway the election for Mr Trump, representing a level of interference in the US political system that security experts said represents a top-level threat.

The meeting with Mr Putin, scheduled for 35 minutes, took more than 2 hours and focused heavily on a just-announced cease fire deal for south west Syria.

Mr Tillerson said details about the cease fire still need to be worked out, but Mr Lavrov told reporters that Russian military police will monitor it, with a centre set up in Jordan.

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.

“The two leaders connected very quickly,” Mr Tillerson said. “There was a very clear positive chemistry.”