December 11, 2018

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Trump invites PUTIN to Washington amid tit-for-tat expulsions


US President Donald Trump invited Russian president Vladimir for a summit meeting in Washington during their phone call on 20 March, the Kremlin and US confirmed on Monday.

The announcement, which was confirmed by the White House, comes just after the US expelled 60 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal, and amongst a “steady drumbeat of aggressive and destabilising actions” by the Kremlin.

The Kremlin said no preparations had been made by the time the US expelled the diplomats last week.

Russian officials said they are worried the plans for a summit meeting in the US might be derailed by the latest spiral of tit-for-tat sanctions over the alleged Russian Novichok attack on the ex Russian double agent and his daughter, Yulia Skripal.

Yuri Ushakov, Mr Putin’s foreign policy advisor, told Russian media: “When our presidents talked on the phone, Trump proposed to conduct the first meeting in Washington, in the White House.”

“This is quite an interesting, positive idea.”

Speaking of the coordinated western expulsion of over 100 Russian diplomats over the Skripal poisonings, Mr Ushakov said: “Against the background of these events, it is of course difficult to discuss the possibility of conducting a summit.

“I hope that the situation will allow us to discuss this topic.”

When our presidents talked on the phone, Trump proposed to conduct the first meeting in Washington, in the White House

Yuri Ushakov

It was Washington’s largest ever expulsion of alleged intelligence officials at one time, and included 48 diplomats attached to the bilateral diplomatic mission in New York and Washington, and 12 further diplomats attached to the Russian mission to the United Nations.

Mr Trump has not mentioned the Salisbury attack or the expelled diplomats in recent tweets or remarks, and the state department confirmed on Monday that Russia would be able to replace the expelled officials.

A state department spokesman said: “The United States has expelled 48 Russian intelligence officers, but it is not requiring the Russian bilateral mission to reduce its total number of personnel.

"As with similar incidents in the past, the Russian government remains free to request accreditation for vacant positions in its bilateral mission. Any requests for new diplomatic accreditation will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

Sarah Saders, White House spokesperson, confirmed Mr Trump had extended the invitation for a meeting, and that the White House was a possible venue, but gave no further details.

She said in a statement released by the White House: “As the President himself confirmed on March 20, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the ‘not-too-distant future’ at a number of potential venues, including the White House.”

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