Update: As part of the 2+ hour discussion between presidents Trump and Putin, AP reports that the Russian president asked for "proof and evidence" of Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 election which Russia denies. The request was made after Trump confronted Putin about Moscow's election meddling during their first face-to-face meeting in Germany on Friday, according to Rex Tillerson who was present in the meeting. The secretary of state told reporters afterward that Trump opened the conversation by “raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
Putin once again denied Russian involvement, Tillerson said, but Trump “pressed” him on the matter “on more than one occasion.”
'President Putin denied such involvement as I think he has in the past,' he continued.
The Russians, speaking after the meeting, claimed that Trump accepted the denial - but Tillerson did not. Instead he said the issue may simply be an 'intractable disagreement.' Tillerson also said the Russians pushed Trump for proof and evidence of meddling, something which the president himself had doubted in public as recently as Thursday.
"The president at this point pressed him and felt like at this point, let’s talk about how do we go forward,' Tillerson said.
Trump and Putin agreed to explore a “framework” around which they can work to better understand these types of cyberthreats, the U.S. diplomat said.
“The two leaders agreed that this is a substantial hindrance on the ability of us to move Russian-U.S. relationships forward and agreed to exchange further work ?regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries,” Tillerson said. “So more work to be done in that regard.”
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in the meeting, said afterward that Trump accepted Putin's assurances that Russia didn't interfere in the election. But Tillerson, who has publicly called out Russia for election interference in the past, said he was 'not dismissing the issue in any way' and did not echo that language.
The secretary of state acknowledged that Putin’s insistence that Russia did not interfere would leave the two countries at an impasse, at least for now. “It's not clear to me that we will ever come to some agreed-upon resolution of that question between the two nations,” he said.
“So the question is, what do we do now?”
We are confident that the US press, which will not let this topic drop, will come up with some suggestions.
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Following their first ever, 2+ hour meeting which was originally supposed to last only 30-40 minutes, the question on everyone's mind was what did the two discuss.
So, in addition to the previously discussed ceasefire agreement in Southwest Syria unexpectedly announced by the two nations, speaking at the beginning of his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Vladimir Putin said that during his first meeting with US President Donald Trump, the two discussed Syria, Ukraine, counterterrorism, and drumroll, the "fight against cyber crime."
"I had a very lengthy conversation with the President of the United States, there were a lot of issues such as Ukraine, Syria, other problems, some bilateral issues", according to Interfax news agency. "We again returned to the issues of fighting terrorism and cybersecurity," Putin added.
Elaborating after the meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump repeatedly pressed Putin on the matter over the course of their meeting (see below for details).
Putin denied Russia’s involvement, and according to a parallel comment from Russia's Sergey Lavrov, "Trump accepted Putin's assurance of no election hacking."
Or as Interfax put it:
- TRUMP ACKNOWLEDGES ANTI-RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN IN U.S. ALREADY LOOKING ODD, THAT HE ACCEPTS PUTIN'S STATEMENTS ON THIS MATTER - LAVROV: IFX
However, it appears Lavrov may have taken some artistic liberty, because according to NBC's chief White House correspondent, one administration official has said Lavrov's comment is "not accurate"
Additionally, Tillerson also discussed the ceasefire deal in Syria:
"A cease-fire has been entered into," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters. This is the "first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria," he said.
Until now, Putin and Trump had only spoken on the phone. They were not alone: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were also present at the talks.
* * *
Earlier, during the press photo session, Trump told the media that "President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it's going very well."
“We've had some very, very good talks, we are going to have a talk now and obviously that will continue,” Trump added, saying there are hopes of “a lot of very positive things happening.”
“It's an honor to be with you, thank you,” Trump concluded, offering his hand to Putin.
"I’m delighted to be able to meet you personally Mr. President,” Putin countered. “And I hope, as you have said, our meeting will yield positive result."
“Spasibo [thank you],” the US leader added in Russian.
Addressing Trump, Putin then said that although the two leaders have “several times talked over the phone, including on some very important bilateral and international issues,” phone talks were “obviously not enough.” Meetings in person are “necessary” if the two countries want to resolve the “most pressing issues,” Putin added.
* * *
Finally, some additional details first from Rex Tillerson, courtesy of Bloomberg:
- TILLERSON: U.S., RUSSIA, JORDAN REACHED CEASEFIRE IN SW SYRIA
- RUSSIA HAS SAME INTEREST IN STABLE SYRIA AS U.S.: TILLERSON
- TRUMP NOTED SANCTIONS BILL ONGOING IN PUTIN TALKS: TILLERSON
- NO LONG-TERM ROLE FOR ASSAD, HIS FAMILY, IN SYRIA: TILLERSON
- RUSSIA-U.S. DIFFERENCES IN TACTICS, PACE, ON N.KOREA: TILLERSON
- TILLERSON SAYS TRUMP & PUTIN HAD A GOOD EXCHANGE ON #NORTHKOREA; RUSSIANS SEE IT DIFFERENTLY THAN THE U.S. DOES: RTRS
- TILLERSON SAYS IT IS NOT CLEAR U.S. OR RUSSIA WILL EVER COME TO A RESOLUTION ON THE QUESTION ABOUT ELECTION INTERFERENCE: RTRS
About the bromance between the two:
- TRUMP, PUTIN CONNECTED QUICKLY, `POSITIVE CHEMISTRY': TILLERSON
- TILLERSON SAYS NEITHER LEADER WANTED TO STOP MEETING, U.S. FIRST LADY CAME IN AT ONE POINT TO TRY TO GET THEM TO CONCLUDE: RTRS
And the punchline:
- TRUMP RAISED ELECTION MEDDLING, PUTIN DENIED ROLE: TILLERSON
- TRUMP ACCEPTED PUTIN'S ASSURANCE OF NO ELECTION HACKING: LAVROV
And here is the conversation from the Russian side, in this case Sergey Lavrov, as reported by Interfax:
- PUTIN, TRUMP HAD VERY CONCRETE CONVERSATION - LAVROV
- LAVROV SAYS HE AND TILLERSON ASKED TO CONTINUE DIALOGUE ON ALL INT'L ISSUES, INCLUDING N. KOREA
- LAVROV: THERE IS UNDERSTANDING ON THREE DE-ESCALATION ZONES IN SYRIA, DIALOGUE CONTINUING ON NORTHERN ZONE
- LAVROV: U.S. AIMS AT IMPLEMENTATION OF MINSK AGREEMENTS - LAVROV
- LAVROV: CONTACTS WITH TRUMP, TILLERSON SHOWED NO SIGN OF U.S. DEPARTING FROM MINSK ACCORDS
- LAVROV: PUTIN, TRUMP AGREE ON CREATION OF BILATERAL WORKING GROUP FOR DEVELOPMENT OF INTERACTION ON BROAD RANGE OF ISSUES, INCLUDING CYBER SECURITY
- LAVROV: WE WILL CONTINUE SEEKING SOLUTION TO PROBLEM OF RUSSIAN DIPLOMATIC PROPERTY IN U.S
- RUSSIA, U.S. AGREE TO SPEED UP THEIR AMBASSADOR APPOINTMENT PROCEDURES - LAVROV
- LAVROV: STATE SOVEREIGNTY TO BE ENSURED IN CREATION OF DE-ESCALATION ZONE IN SOUTHERN SYRIA
- LAVROV: WE HOPE U.S. ENVOY FOR UKRAINE WILL ARRIVE IN MOSCOW FOR CONSULTATIONS SOON
- LAVROV: AGREEMENT REACHED TO CREATE RUSSIAN-U.S. CHANNEL FOR UKRAINIAN SETTLEMENT
- LAVROV: SECURITY IN DE-ESCALATION ZONE IN SOUTHERN SYRIA WILL BE ENSURED USING RUSSIAN POLICE, U.S. AND JORDANIAN FORCES
- LAVROV: RUSSIAN, U.S. EXPERTS IN JORDAN ON FRIDAY FINISHED WORK OF AGREEING ON DE-ESCALATION AREAS IN SOUTHWEST SYRIA
- LAVROV: PUTIN AND TRUMP ARE DRIVEN BY NATIONAL INTERESTS, AIM AT MUTUAL AGREEMENTS
- TRUCE IN SOUTHERN SYRIA TO BE EFFECTIVE FROM MIDNIGHT JULY 9 - LAVROV
- LAVROV: PUTIN, TRUMP DEMONSTRATED THAT THEY HAVE NO INTENTION OF CREATING PROBLEMS OUT OF NOTHING FOR TWO COUNTRIES
And the only line that matters on this side:
- TRUMP ACKNOWLEDGES ANTI-RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN IN U.S. ALREADY LOOKING ODD, THAT HE ACCEPTS PUTIN'S STATEMENTS ON THIS MATTER - LAVROV
In summary: Putin denied hacking the US election, and "Trump accepted Putin's assurance" at least according to the Russian side. We now await the howls of outrage from the US media.