American President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met yesterday in Hamburg, Germany, in conjunction with the annual G20 Summit. In a meeting that lasted for more than two hours, the two leaders focused on the topics of Russia’s alleged interference in the United States election and the handling of the Syrian Civil War.
Mr. Trump lead off the meeting with a discussion of the alleged electoral interference. The presidents engaged in what American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later described as a “robust and lengthy exchange” on the issue, with Mr. Putin repeatedly denying that any interference had take place. On that subject, no resolution appears to have been reached. However, Mr. Tillerson noted that both leaders agreed that it was a major roadblock in the path toward improved Russo-American relations, a policy point that both leaders have stated as an official goal many times.
After the portion of the conversation dealing with the election controversy had concluded, Trump and Putin turned to another area of longstanding disagreement between the United States and Russia: the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Since 2015, Russia’s diplomatic and military sectors have been working actively in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States has consistently backed rebel factions that make up a portion of the country’s fragmented power structure. Russia’s partnership with Iran in the effort to keep Assad in power has also been a frequent sticking point.
When the meeting had concluded, a new ceasefire agreement was announced. That agreement, which is to cover the country’s southwestern region and to which neighboring Jordan is a party, is set to take effect at noon local time on Sunday. As of the time of this writing, mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement of the ceasefire were reportedly still under development.
Messrs. Trump and Putin also engaged in a more limited discussion of North Korea’s recent aggressive activities. Though less of a point of contention than Syria, a Russian vote in the United Nations Security Council to block a resolution for sanctions against North Korea increased tensions in the days leading up to the G20 Summit. The resolution was in response to the launching of a primitive test ICBM on the part of the North Korean state. At that time, Russia’s diplomatic delegation explained its vote by stating that the Russian government had not independently verified that the missile in question had intercontinental capabilities. The two leaders also discussed the ongoing low-level conflicts in Ukraine.
Reactions to the meeting between the two presidents were generally positive on both sides. Mr. Tillerson offered the most detailed commentary on behalf of the United States, though Mr. Trump also commented that he felt they had had “very good talks” and that he believed both Russia and the United States would benefit from mutual cooperation. On the Russian side, Mr. Putin said that he believed the meeting represented a “more pragmatic” Syrian policy on America’s part. Whether or not that policy will result in a stable, lasting ceasefire in southwestern Syria, meanwhile, will only be determined in the days and weeks ahead.
Photo Credit: Kremlin.ru
Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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