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Trump and Putin Agree They Have Same Goals, Different Approaches

July 7, 2017 (EIRNS)—The separate press briefings on the Putin/Trump summit presented by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were in total agreement on this: The two Presidents disagreed on many things, but agreed that it was more important to move forward on solutions for the future than to settle the disagreements of the past. Tillerson said,

"The two leaders, I would say, connected very quickly. There was a very clear positive chemistry between the two. The positive thing I observed, and I’ve had many, many meetings with President Putin before, is that there was not a lot of relitigating of the past. I think both of the leaders feel like there’s a lot in the past that both of us are unhappy about. The perspective of both of them is that this is a very important relationship, the two largest nuclear powers in this world.... We simply have to find a way to move forward."

Tillerson illustrated the strength of their commitment to a productive relationship by saying that as the meeting went beyond the 35 minutes scheduled for it, he began coaxing the President, other people came in to see what was going on, and at one point, "They sent the First Lady in.... That didn’t work. We went another hour after she came in to see us, so she failed."

On Syria, Tillerson said that the military advances against ISIS had reached a point where they can make concrete arrangements for "de-escalation. Both parties agreed on a ceasefire involving a zone in Southwest Syria near the Jordanian border. The United States, Russia, and Jordan agreed to maintain that ceasefire. They agree on expanding these zones of deconfliction and on a transition to a Syrian government under the democratic control of the people of Syria. In response to a question, Tillerson said that the United States does not believe that Assad or the Assad family can long continue in power in Syria because the international community would not accept Syria as a legitimate state if that were the case. Putin retains his view that Assad is the legitimate President of Syria, and that transparent elections by the Syrian people should continue to decide on their leadership.

On Ukraine, Russia requested that a special channel be opened to resolve differences on this issue. In response, Trump has appointed Ambassador Kurt Volker to serve as the United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations. His appointment was announced by the State Department this morning. On July 9, he and Tillerson will travel to Kyiv, and he will collaborate with Russia, Germany, and France, the other members of the Normandy Four, who have taken responsibility for resolving that situation.

On cyber-security, both sides agreed to establish a working group to collaborate on this issue. Lavrov pointed out that this problem involves pornography and pedophilia. Tillerson referred to disruption of economic activity. When asked about Russian hacking of the election, Tillerson said that there was a lengthy discussion of this and that Trump pressed very hard on the issue, but Putin firmly denied Russia’s involvement. When asked if Putin asked for evidence, he said that he did, but "I’m going to leave that to the intelligence community to straighten out." He said that he agreed with Trump’s decision to recognize this as an area of disagreement and move forward. The translator of Lavrov’s remarks said that Trump said that, in the absence of evidence, he would accept Putin’s word. Both sides did agree on establishing firm mutual commitments to avoid such activity in the future.

On North Korea, Putin supports the double freeze approach advanced by Xi Jingping, but Trump believes continuing sanctions are necessary. Neither Tillerson nor Lavrov mentioned the possibility of military counter-measures nor their promotion by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Both foreign ministers stressed that although many issues were discussed, few were resolved, but that both presidents were firmly and enthusiastically committed to their resolution. Tillerson said, "By and large, our objectives are both the same. Now, how we get there, that’s another issue."