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White House, Kremlin Advisers To Discuss Arms Control, Iran’s Role In Syria

U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton will discuss arms control treaties and Iran’s role in Syria in talks with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva next week.

Reuters, citing an anonymous U.S. administration official, reported on the meeting late on August 16 in what would be the first official follow-up to Trump’s controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July.

Trump after the summit drew widespread criticism, in part because he never disclosed what was discussed or decided in his two-hour-long, one-to-one meeting with Putin, with only interpreters present.

In one of the few agenda items disclosed after the meeting, both Trump and Putin said they had agreed to work together to ensure Israel’s security at a time when Israel has repeatedly warned of threats to the Jewish state from Iran and Iranian-allied fighters stationed in Syria.

Weeks after the summit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to Moscow on the same day that a top Iranian official was there to confer about the Syrian civil war, in which Iran’s military has for years backed the Syrian government.

Reuters reported on August 16 that the leading topic of the Putin-Trump meeting was in fact the war in Syria, including Iran’s role there and the humanitarian situation in the country.

It said the two presidents agreed in principle that the Iranian military should exit Syria, as Israel has demanded, but that Russia maintained this would be difficult to achieve.

Since the summit, the Kremlin’s envoy to Syria has said that it would be "unrealistic" for Israel to expect all Iranian-allied fighters to leave Syria. But Russia recently announced an agreement with Israel to keep Iranian fighters 85 kilometers from its border with Syria.

Reuters said that Trump and Putin also discussed arms control during their meeting, including the New START treaty and the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

The official told Reuters that the leaders did not agree on a way forward on arms control, however.

Bolton is a critic of the New START treaty, which was reached during President Barack Obama’s administration.

While meeting with Putin, Trump also raised the issue of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline to Germany, which he has criticized sharply, the official told Reuters.

Directly after his meeting with Putin, Trump for about 15 minutes briefed Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, about what was said, Reuters reported.

Many topics they discussed were reportedly raised again in a larger group meeting that followed.

Reuters reported that Trump told Putin that Russian election meddling had to stop in 2018, when the United States is holding congressional elections.

While Putin insisted that the Russian state did not meddle in the U.S. election, the U.S. official told Reuters that left a "big expanse" of other Russian actors that could have been involved.

With reporting by Reuters

Source: Radio Free Europe

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