by Simon STURDEE and Hui Min NEO
US President Donald Trump and Russian chief Vladimir Putin engaged in a “very robust exchange” over claims Moscow meddled in America’s elections, throughout their first face-to-face talks Friday at a fractious G20 summit marred by violent avenue protests.
From the outset of the blockbuster encounter, the US property tycoon fired the important thing query that has weighed on his presidency, urgent the ex-KGB agent “on more than one occasion” on the vote interference claims, stated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was within the assembly.
But Tillerson’s counterpart Sergei Lavrov rapidly added that Trump “accepted” Putin’s denial of Moscow’s position in propelling him to the White House, after listening to the Russian out.
Over the course of two hours and 15 minutes of talks that coated not solely the damaging claims but additionally a slew of world crises together with the Syrian warfare, the 2 leaders clearly engaged, stated Tillerson.
“Let me characterise: the meeting was very constructive, the two leaders I would say, connected very quickly,” stated Tillerson, including “there was a very clear positive chemistry between the two”.
“There are so many issues on the table… Just about everything got touched upon… Neither one of them wanted to stop,” he stated.
“I believe they even sent in the (US) First Lady at one point to see if she could get us out of there, but that didn’t work either… We did another hour. Clearly she failed!”
– Growing rift –
On the presidential election marketing campaign path final yr, Trump stated he hoped relations with Putin might be rebuilt after Russia’s acrimonious ties together with his predecessor Barack Obama.
But the billionaire had confronted rising stress to take a tricky line on Russia after allegations it interfered within the vote.
In the talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Trump pressed Putin on the problem, “and then… felt like at this point, let’s talk about how do we go forward,” stated Tillerson.
“I think that was the right place to spend our time, rather than spending a lot of time having a disagreement that everybody knows we have a disagreement,” added the secretary of state.
But Senate Democratic chief Charles Schumer ripped into Tillerson over the case.
“For Secretary Tillerson to say that this issue will remain unresolved is disgraceful — to give equal credence to the findings of the American intelligence community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future,” he warned.
– Climate deal ‘irreversible’ –
Friday’s encounter may have an effect on points starting from the North Korean disaster and conflicts in Syria and Ukraine to US-Russian disarmament treaties, world commerce and world warming, analysts say.
How the “contrasting styles of machismo interact… will likely be the defining feature of their relationship,” famous Derek Chollet from think-tank German Marshall Fund.
But if Trump and Putin have established a rapport, the gap between the US chief and America’s long-standing allies have appeared to widen together with his climate-sceptic opinions and “America First” coverage.
The rising rift has turned this yr’s G20 summit — usually a ripple-free occasion within the diplomatic calendar — into one of the stormiest within the discussion board’s historical past.
“We are not going to paper over the differences but rather, we will call discord discord,” stated German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A draft communique seen by AFP Friday appeared to replicate the 19-versus-one stance on local weather.
The draft underlines that the 2015 Paris local weather accord is “irreversible” and affirms that different G20 nations are dedicated to the deal whereas taking observe of Washington’s determination to give up the settlement.
– Not given up hope –
Meanwhile, North Korea’s profitable take a look at of an intercontinental ballistic missile this week additionally casts a darkish shadow over the US chief’s first G20 summit.
Trump had warned Thursday that Pyongyang’s navy sabre-rattling would bear “consequences”, saying he was contemplating a “severe” response to its “very, very bad behaviour”.
After repeatedly urging Beijing to ratchet up the financial stress on North Korea,Trump will maintain what guarantees to be a testy assembly with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the G20’s sidelines on Saturday.
Tillerson stated the US will proceed to press China to do extra to rein in Pyongyang.
“Our engagement is unchanged with China and our expectations are unchanged. We have not given up hope,” he added.
– Unacceptable violence –
Meanwhile, outdoors the closely guarded G20convention corridor, protesters wreaked havoc, partaking in operating battles with police within the all day as the rattle of helicopters was heard overhead.
The activists blocked US First Lady Melania Trump at her residence for hours as they torched vehicles, smashed store home windows, fired flares at police helicopters and even slashed tyres on autos belonging to the Canadian delegation.
The violence compelled Hamburg police to name in reinforcements from different German states, and G20 organisers to drastically curtail an official programme for spouses of visiting dignitaries.
G20 host Merkel condemned the violence, saying she may perceive peaceable protests, however demonstrations that “put peoples’ lives in danger, put the protesters’ own lives in danger… are unacceptable”.
© Agence France-Presse