Vladimir Putin has said he is happy to meet Donald Trump once Washington is ready to hold a summit and welcomed the US president’s call to bring Russia back into the G7 group of leading industrialised nations.
Speaking to reporters in Qingdao, China, the Russian president said Austria was among the countries that have offered to host his meeting with Trump.
“The US president has repeatedly said that it’s reasonable to hold such a meeting,” Putin said on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). “As soon as the US side is ready, the meeting will take place, depending, of course, on my working schedule.”
Putin said he shared Trump’s concern in their most recent phone call in March about a renewed arms race.
His remarks followed a report that White House officials were working towards setting up a meeting. Trump has said he is open to having a summit with Putin, who US intelligence officials have said directed Russian meddling in the 2016 election to help Trump win.
The US president has repeatedly said he wants to improve relations with Moscow.
Putin also welcomed Trump’s statement that Russia should be invited to rejoin the group that was called the G8 before Russia was expelled.
“It wasn’t us who left,” he said. “Colleagues refused to come to Russia on well-known grounds. We will be ready to greet them all in Moscow.”
Russia was kicked out of the G8 in 2014 after it invaded and annexed Crimea, and for its support of pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine. Trump, however, suggested the G7 should offer a seat at the table to Russia.
“I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said he told Trump readmitting Russia “is not something that we are even remotely looking at at this time”.
Putin also dismissed as “chatter” a G7 statement that criticised his country.
The statement said: “We urge Russia to cease its destabilising behaviour to undermine democratic systems and its support of the Syrian regime.”
It also said the group shared and agreed with Britain’s assessment that it was “highly likely” for the poisoning of the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.
The Russian president said: “Once again, nothing concrete was said. It’s time to stop that chatter and deal with real issues.”
Earlier on Sunday, he criticised the US withdrawal from the last month in a speech at the summit.
He emphasised that the bloc’s members, which include China, India and Pakistan, were worried about the move.
Putin said Washington’s decision could “destabilise the situation” in the region. He added that Moscow will continue to honour its obligations under the deal.
Addressing the summit, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, whose country has observer status in the group, said Tehran would expect other participants in the nuclear deal to provide guarantees that they would honour the agreement.
Founded in 2001, the SCO has largely served as a vehicle for resolving border issues, fighting terrorism and countering US influence in central Asia.
SOURCE: The Associated Press