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Syria to dominate Putin-Trump summit, presidential aide says

July 13, 20:15 UTC+3

North Korea, the Iran nuclear deal and eastern Ukraine will also be on the table of the talks, according to Yuri Ushakov

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© EPA-EFE/JORGE SILVA / POOL

MOSCOW, July 13. /TASS/. Syria will dominate the talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, Yuri Ushakov, the Russian presidential aide, told reporters on Friday.

"There are very many [issues] in the context of Syria, and if we mention regional conflicts, as I personally see it, Syria will be a focus of the talks between Putin and Trump," the Kremlin official said.

Ushakov pointed out that other crises would be also on the table of the talks, namely North Korea, the Iran nuclear deal and eastern Ukraine.

As for North Korea, "positive shifts can be seen in the Korean issue, in particular US president’s personal efforts," he noted.

Nord Stream 2 project

Putin and Trump plan to discuss a range of economic matters during talks on July 16 in Helsinki, according to Ushakov.

The US position on implementation of this project is of concern of Russia, unconstructive and contradicts rules of international trade, the aide said.

"This is a key topic for us also. Certainly, we are concerned of the US position to counter implementation of the common European Nord Stream 2 project. This will be on the table, we will present arguments and it seems to me that economic competition is the case in point. The room for supplies of energy resources to Europe will be enough for everyone, and therefore we regard the US position as unconstructive and inconsistent with basic rules of international trade and economic relations in general," Ushakov said.

The topic of cooperation in the energy sphere is a key one for the US also, considering that Trump raised during the recent NATO summit, the aide noted.

Economic ties

Russia considers necessary to develop economic cooperation with the United States, which can become a safety net for bilateral relations at large, Ushakov said.

"It appears to us that the economy can exactly become such a safety net in case of any situational changes in bilateral relations. Therefore, [economic ties] should be developed, this will be one of topics discussed. We have certain specific proposals in this regard and our president will told Trump about them during the conversation," Ushakov said.

"Presidents will decide" whether the economic topic is discussed but "it will be logical to discuss it," the aide said.

"The US president is the successful businessman and knows how to run affairs in the economic sphere," Ushakov said. About 550 representatives of the US business attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this May, being "actually the largest foreign delegation," he noted.

"The level of trade and economic relations [of Russia and the US] is very low. It increased during some period of time, declined during the other one, but it [trade turnover] is spinning around $20-23 bln, which is absolutely not in line with the potential of our countries," Ushakov added.

Strategic stability

Issues of strategic stability are also likely to be among the topics Russian and US presidents, according to Ushakov.

"Strategic stability may be a central topic of the upcoming meeting," he said.

"Russia for years has been suggesting dialogue be established on issues related to the United States’ withdrawal from the ABM Treaty," he noted. "Our measures on strengthening the national defense potential is a reaction to the United States’ global missile defense system targeting to devaluate Russia’s nuclear forces. The Russian side has been repeatedly reiterating its commitment to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and has completely implemented its liabilities under it."

"The two leaders may also raise the topic of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, including in the context of the United States’ deploying in Romania launching pads capable of firing not only interceptors but also smart Tomahawk missiles," Ushakov added.

Alleged meddling in US election 

Russia has never meddled with election campaigns in the United States and will never do that, Ushakov said.

According to Ushakov, there are signals that the US side is planning to raise this topic at the meeting. "And in the run-up to this meeting I would like to once again reiterate that Russia has never interfered and is not going to interfere into domestic affairs, the more so, into electoral processes in the United States, to influence US elections," he stressed.

"It is especially important to stress that" amidst "the media frenzy ahead of midterm election" to the US Congress in November 2018.

"If the Americans have any evidence, we are ready to consider it, and our president has told it several times," Ushakov noted. "It could be done, for instance, within a joint working group on cyber security." Putin and Trump looked at such possibility at their meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit in Hamburg last July. But "so far, this idea [to establish a working group] has not been materialized," he added.

"Naturally, we are worried over the negatively hyped atmosphere. We think that it is inadmissible to let those who are against improvement in the Russian-US relations go on speculating on this harmful topic that is kept afloat purportedly," Ushakov stressed, adding that Russia has never interfered into the United States’ domestic affairs and is not going to do that.

"We will tell it once again (at the summit)," he noted.

No plans for final declaration

Putin and Trump are not planning to sign final documents at the summit in Helsinki, Ushakov said.

"It was agreed not to issue a joint statement but to provide the presidents with an opportunity to decide by themselves whether there will be a joint document or they will merely draw conclusions at a news conference," he said. "I think the second variant could be more realistic."

Putin’s aide pointed out that the experts in the Russian delegation would be on stand-by.

"If it is needed, we will be promptly drawing it up, in case there is an agreement about it, some joint documents," Ushakov explained.

"It has been agreed as of yet that the presidents will talk and decide on the future tasks they are going to set out for corresponding agencies. Later on, this will be finalized at the level of delegations, and afterwards the presidents will evaluate the talks at a joint news conference," he said.

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