WASHINGTON: Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will hold their long-awaited first summit next month in the Finnish capital Helsinki, at what could prove a historic turning point in international relations.

The July 16 head-to-head will follow a Nato summit in Brussels that Washington’s European partners fear will serve as another stage for the US leader to berate them and scorn the Western alliance.

Trump has long called for warmer ties with Moscow, but the talks come as Russia’s relations with the West languish at levels not seen since the Cold War.

The meeting will likely provoke criticism for Trump at home, where investigators are probing possible collusion between his presidential campaign team and Moscow.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, as well as Moscow’s backing of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian conflict will also loom large.

Next month’s dialogue in Finland will see the two leaders discuss “the current state and prospects for development of Russian-US relations,” said the Kremlin.

A statement from the White House said the presidents will also broach various “national security issues.” Trump earlier said he expected discussions to be wide-ranging.

“I think we’ll be talking about Syria. I think we’ll be talking about Ukraine. I think we’ll be talking about many other subjects. And we’ll see what happens. You never know about meetings what happens, right?” the US president said.

“I think a lot of good things can come with meetings with people.” The announcement came after Trump’s hawkish national security advisor John Bolton met Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, where he was given a warm welcome before the two discussed details of the future summit.

“Your visit to Moscow gives us hope that we can at least take the first step to reviving full-blown ties between our states,” Putin told Bolton at the Kremlin after the two smiled and shook hands for the cameras.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2018

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