By Margarita Antidze
TBILISI (Reuters) – The White House has formally invited President Vladimir Putin to Washington, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Friday, returning to an idea that was put on hold in July amid anger in the U.S. over the prospect of such a summit.
President Donald Trump held a summit with Putin in Helsinki, the Finnish capital, and then issued Putin an invitation to visit Washington in the autumn. But that was postponed after Trump was accused of cozying up to the Kremlin.
“We have invited President Putin to Washington,” Bolton said at a news conference during a visit to ex-Soviet Georgia, days after meeting Putin and senior security officials in Moscow.
It was not immediately clear if Putin had accepted the invitation, which is for next year.
Bolton, in a separate interview with Reuters, strongly criticized Russian foreign policy, saying Moscow’s behavior on the world stage was one of the reasons Washington had imposed sanctions on Russia and was now considering imposing more.
“It will be helpful if they (the Russians) stop interfering in our election … get out of Crimea and the Donbass in Ukraine … stop using illegal chemical weapons to conduct assassination attempts against Russian exiles in the West, and if they would be less intrusive in the Middle East,” he said.
Russia denies meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, sending soldiers and equipment to eastern Ukraine, and has rejected Western allegations it was behind the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.
WILL PUTIN ACCEPT?
Putin last held a meeting with a U.S. president on American soil in 2015 when he met Barack Obama on the sidelines of a U.N. General Assembly.
Trump’s earlier invitation to Putin sparked an outcry in Washington, including from lawmakers in Trump’s Republican party, who argued that Putin was an adversary not worthy of a White House visit.
Trump has said it is in U.S. interests to establish a solid working relationship with Putin however.
Trump and Putin plan to hold a bilateral meeting in Paris on Nov. 11 on the sidelines of events to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One.
Bolton said that the Paris meeting would be brief and more of “a base-touching exercise.”
“One of the most important subjects they will discuss is whether President Putin will accept President Trump’s invitation to come to Washington or will President Putin once again extend his invitation to President Trump to go to Moscow,” said Bolton.
“I think what President Trump would like would be more of an opportunity to discuss the issues at length and we’ll have to see when it gets on the schedule.”
(Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Writing by Tom Balmforth/Andrew Osborn; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, William Maclean)
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