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23 Aug, 2018 17:09

John Bolton touts ‘considerable progress’ after 5-hour US-Russia security meeting

US National Security Advisor John Bolton said talks with Russian counterpart Nikolay Patrushev will help “restore lines of communication” between Moscow and Washington, but the two sides couldn’t agree on a joint statement.

“We made a lot of progress, we’ve identified certain areas where lines of communication could be restored and more work done by the affected agencies – the State Department, the Defense Department,” Bolton said during the press conference following the meeting in Geneva, which he said lasted over five hours.

Systematic diplomatic and military cooperation between the two countries stopped in the wake of the Crimea fallout in 2014, and since then the two sides have mostly communicated narrowly through the Syria deconfliction line. But the door was opened during last month’s Helsinki summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, where the two leaders put forward the idea of Thursday’s meeting.

Despite boasting the breadth of the issues broached, from nuclear proliferation and future arms treaties, to counter-terrorism, immigration, Syria and a common position on Iran, during Bolton’s opaque answers to media questions, it was easier to identify “some areas where disagreement remained and we didn’t see much utility in resuming discussion.”

Bolton said that in view of allegations of Russian interference in US elections, the two countries would not engage in any cyber cooperation.

“I made it clear that we wouldn’t tolerate meddling in 2018,” added Bolton.

The issue also proved a stumbling block for any joint statement after the talks, said Patrushev.

According to the head of Russia’s Security Council, the US demanded that the communiqué read that “Russia interfered in US elections, but denies it.” Patrushev said that Moscow agreed to include the sentence if in turn, the statement would also say that “the US mustn’t meddle in the affairs of other nations,” at which point Bolton’s team gave up on the whole idea.

Nonetheless, Patrushev noted that the “constructive” meeting did not proceed in an “accusatory tone,” and urged the White House to quickly follow up on the proposals discussed. Patrushev said that he personally invited Bolton to Russia for the next round of talks.

"We've posed a lot of questions to each other, and we need to solve them. We need to meet not just for the sake of meeting, but when we are ready," the former FSB chief told the Russian media.

Pompeo & Lavrov discuss Syria  

Also, in their second phone conversation in as many weeks Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Thursday, to discuss the conflict in Syria and upcoming international engagements. The two held a parallel meeting to their presidents in Helsinki, but further talks in early August had to be postponed due to a scheduling clash, with expectation that fresh talks will be held soon.

READ MORE: Savchenko, Sentsov & Udaltsov: Blatant hypocrisy makes Russians deeply cynical about the West

According to Russian officials, the ministers discussed the fate of several high-profile detainees, with Lavrov urging Pompeo to stop the “persecution” of Maria Butina, who is accused by US authorities of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and for fair treatment of other Russian citizens including Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko. In turn, Pompeo inquired about the continuing imprisonment of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was convicted on charges of terrorism, and given a “detailed explanation” of his legal situation by Lavrov.

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