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White House, Kremlin Advisers To Discuss Arms Control, Iran's Role In Syria

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton

U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, is expected to discuss arms control treaties and Iran's role in Syria when he meets his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva next week.

The meeting between Bolton and Patrushev, secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin's Security Council, would be the first official follow-up to the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki in July.

Trump drew widespread criticism after the summit, in part, because he never disclosed what was discussed or decided during his two-hour-long, one-on-one meeting with Putin.

But Reuters, quoting an unnamed U.S. administration official on August 16, reported previously unannounced details about the meeting.

The official said the main topic of the Putin-Trump meeting was the war in Syria, including Iran's role there, and the humanitarian situation in the country.

Reuters said the two presidents agreed in principle that Iranian military forces should exit Syria, as Israel has demanded.

But Russia maintained this would be difficult to achieve. Since the summit, the Kremlin's envoy to Syria has said it would be "unrealistic" for Israel to expect all Iranian-allied fighters to leave Syria. But Russia recently announced an agreement with Israel aimed at keeping Iranian fighters at least 85 kilometers from Israel’s border with Syria.

Reuters said Trump and Putin also discussed arms control issues during their meeting -- including the New START treaty and the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of up to 5,500 kilometers.

The official told Reuters that the leaders did not agree on a way forward on arms control.

Bolton is a critic of the New START treaty, which was reached during President Barack Obama's administration.

While meeting with Putin, Trump also raised the issue of Russia's Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany, which he has criticized sharply, the official told Reuters.

Directly after his talks with Putin, Trump spent about 15 minutes briefing Bolton, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Reuters reported

Many topics they discussed were raised again in a larger group meeting that followed, the official said.

The official said Trump also told Putin that Russian interference in its elections must stop ahead of the 2018 U.S. congressional elections.

While Putin insisted the Russian state did not interfere in the U.S. election, the U.S. official told Reuters that his response left a "big expanse" of other Russian actors that could have been involved.

With reporting by Reuters
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