Mon, Jan 30, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Trump talks to Putin, world leaders about security

Reuters, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump on Saturday discussed Syria and the fight against Islamic State militants with Russian President Vladimir Putin in one of several calls with world leaders.

Trump’s call with Putin was their first since the New York businessman took office and came as officials said he was considering lifting sanctions on Moscow despite opposition from Democrats and Republicans at home and European allies abroad.

Neither the White House nor the Kremlin mentioned a discussion of sanctions in their statements about the approximately hour-long call.

“The positive call was a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair,” the White House said. “Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today’s call the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern.”

Former US president Barack Obama suggested last month that Putin personally authorized the computer hacks of Democratic Party e-mails that US intelligence officials say were part of a Russian effort aimed at helping Trump beat his Democrat rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the Nov. 8 election.

Trump’s relationship with Russia is being closely watched by the EU, which teamed up with the US to punish Moscow after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Trump spoke to two top EU leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, in addition to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

His call with Merkel, who had a very close relationship with Obama, included a discussion about Russia, the Ukraine crisis and NATO, the US and German governments said.

Trump has described NATO as being obsolete, a comment that has alarmed long-time US allies.

A White House statement said he and Merkel agreed NATO must be capable of confronting “21rst century threats.”

Trump’s executive order restricting travel and instituting “extreme vetting” of visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries already puts him at odds with Merkel, whose embrace of Syrian refugees was praised by Obama even as it created political problems for her domestically.

Trump has said that Merkel made a “catastrophic mistake” by permitting more than 1 million refugees, mostly Muslims fleeing war in the Middle East, to come to her country.

In his call with Hollande, Trump “reaffirmed the US commitment to NATO and noted the importance of all NATO allies sharing the burden on defense spending,” the White House said.

Hollande warned Trump against taking a protectionist approach, which he said would have economic and political consequences, according to a statement from the French president’s office.

The refugee order created confusion and chaotic scenes in airports on Saturday and largely overshadowed the news of Trump’s calls with foreign leaders, which took place throughout the day and which photographers captured in photos and video outside the Oval Office.

During his call with Abe, Trump affirmed an “ironclad” US commitment to ensuring Japan’s security. The two leaders also discussed the threat posed by North Korea. They plan to meet in Washington early next month.

Trump spoke to Turnbull for 25 minutes and emphasized the close relationship between the two countries.

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