WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton will discuss arms control treaties and Iran’s role in Syria in talks with Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva next week, an administration official said.
The meeting is a follow-up to Trump’s controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July.
Trump held a one-on-one meeting with Putin during that summit and drew criticism for siding with Moscow over US intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. He later corrected his assessment about Russia’s role.
The White House has not released many details about Trump’s meeting with Putin. But the official offered a list of items he said the two men discussed.
The leading topic of their conversation was the war in Syria, he said, including Iran’s role there and the humanitarian situation in the country.
The two agreed in principle that the Iranians should exit Syria but Russia saw that as a tough task, the official said.
Trump and Putin discussed arms control, including the New START treaty and the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.
The official said the leaders did not agree on a way forward on arms control, however.
Bolton is a critic of the New START treaty, agreed during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration.
Trump also raised the issue of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany, which he has criticized sharply, with Putin, the official said.
Directly after his meeting with Putin, which lasted more than two hours, Trump briefed Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Russia, about their meeting for about 15 minutes, the official said.
Many topics they discussed were raised again in the larger group meeting that followed, the official said.
Syria is expected to be on the agenda when German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany on Saturday.
Merkel on Friday confirmed an announcement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of plans for a summit with the leaders of Russia and France, but she said no date had been set yet.
Although Syria peace talks should broadly be led by the UN and other established groupings, Merkel said such a four-way summit “could make sense.”
“It must be well prepared, that’s why no date has been set yet,” she told a Berlin joint press conference with Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic.
“But we will arrange for advisers to hold a preparatory meeting and then decide whether it makes sense to hold such a meeting together.”
She said she had also discussed this by telephone with Erdogan, pointing to the “very, very tense situation” in Syria’s opposition-held northwestern province of Idlib, now the focus of Assad’s troops after sweeping military gains — helped by direct Russian support — across Syria.