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Trump Unclear Over Stance On Crimea Ahead Of Meeting With Putin

Thu, 12th Jul 2018 14:55

BRUSSELS (Alliance News) - US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he cannot say what will happen to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea, just days ahead of a highly-anticipated meeting between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the comments made after a NATO summit, Trump refused to rule out the possibility that the US might recognize Russia's annexation of the peninsula, which led to widespread international outcry and sanctions.

"What will happen with Crimea from this point on, that I cannot tell you," Trump said. "But I'm not happy about Crimea."

Trump, who has bickered with fellow leaders of NATO member states and accused them of not fulfilling defence funding requirements for the Western military alliance, is set to meet with Putin on Monday.

US-Russian relations plummeted to their lowest point since the Cold War when Russia annexed Crimea in response to neighbouring Ukraine ousting its pro-Russian president, in a pivot to the West.

But Trump, who has been in office since last year, has pursued an ostensibly chummy relationship with Putin and has conspicuously left his stance on Crimea open to interpretation.

Trump said the two would discuss alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, as well as conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, at the meeting.

"I hope we get along well, but ultimately, he's a competitor," Trump said. "Somebody was saying: 'Is he an enemy?' He's not my enemy. 'Is he a friend?' No, I don't know him well enough."

Trump added, "Hopefully, some day, maybe he'll be a friend."

On the issue of Russian meddling in the US elections that put Trump in office, the US president said he would ask Putin about it "again."

"All I can do is say: 'Did you?' or 'Don't do it again!' But he may deny it," Trump said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said at the NATO summit earlier in the day that he was "not afraid" that Trump could personally recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea.

"We have an absolutely strong message both from the White House [and] the Department of State" about not recognizing "the illegal annexation," Poroshenko said.

By Emoke Bebiak and Peter Spinella, dpa

Copyright dpa

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