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Trump and Putin to hold talks in Helsinki in mid-July

The meeting between the two heads of state is aimed at bridging the political divide between the two countries.

US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to hold talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on July 16, the White House said on Thursday.

The meeting, which comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow due in no small part to allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, was announced on Wednesday by Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton after holding talks with President Putin.

"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," Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

"Maybe something positive will come out of it. I've said it from day one, getting along with Russia and with China and with everybody is a very good thing. It's good for the world. It's good for us. It's good for everybody."

Bolton for his part said that "direct contact between Trump and Putin is in the US national interest.

"There are a wide range of issues, despite the differences between us, where both President Trump and President Putin think they may be able to find constructive solutions," he said.

"I'd like to hear someone say that's a bad idea."

The summit is being seen by some as an attempt by Putin to try to lift some of the sanctions imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014, its support of Ukrainian separatists and alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

'Dialogue is a sign of strength' 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the summit, saying that "for me, dialogue is not a sign of weakness. Dialogue is a sign of strength."

"It's absolutely, totally in line with NATO policies to talk to Russia, to meet with Russian leaders. We don't want a new Cold War. We don't want to isolate Russia. We want to strive for a better relationship," Stoltenberg said.

Putin had two brief meetings with Trump on the sidelines of international summits last year, but plans for a full-fledged summit had been delayed amid the FBI and Congressional probes into alleged Russia-Trump ties that Trump has dismissed as a "witch-hunt."

A delegation of US senators and congressmen headed by Senator Richard Shelby will travel to Russia on Saturday. The lawmakers will hold talks with Russian members of parliament as well as other foreign policy officials, a spokeswoman for Russian foreign ministry official said.

"I hope this visit will give an impulse to restarting inter-parliamentary exchange between our countries," the spokeswoman said.

US allies who want to isolate Putin, such as Britain, or who are concerned about Trump's attitude towards Russia are likely to be irritated by such a summit.

However, in April, a probe by the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee found no such evidence but described Trump's associates as having several "ill-advised" Russian contacts.


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