HELSINKI – The presidents of the United States and Russia met at the beginning of a summit in Helsinki where they were expected to talk on Monday about the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, nuclear disarmament and Moscow’s alleged interference in electoral processes.
Both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had arrived aboard their large presidential planes and driven to the president of Finland’s palace in long motorcades made up of gleaming black stretch limousines accompanied by their escorts.
Once inside, Trump told his Russian counterpart that good relations between the two nations were “a good thing, not a bad thing,” adding that he hoped to develop an “extraordinary relationship” with Putin.
Addressing Trump as “distinguished President,” Putin said it was a pleasure to meet “on hospitable Finnish soil.”
“We continue to have regular contacts, we have talked on the phone and met several times at various international events,” Putin added.
“But of course, now it’s time to talk in detail about our bilateral relations and various problem areas in the world. There are a lot of them,” he said.
Putin arrived at the Presidential Palace at around 1.35 pm local time (10.35 GMT) and climbed the stairs accompanied by the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö.
Trump, who had delayed his trip to the palace – seemingly so as to avoid arriving before Putin – appeared more than half an hour after the scheduled start time of the summit.
It was not clear if the delay would shorten the original agenda, which in principle gave the two presidents about three-and-a-half hours to meet.
Putin landed aboard his Ilyushin Il-96 at the same time at which Trump had planned to reach the palace, which apparently led the US president to delay his journey to the summit headquarters, so as not to have wait there for his Russian counterpart.
Thus, Trump’s motorcade arrived at the palace after making Putin wait for about 20 minutes.
The wars in Ukraine and Syria, the alleged interference by Moscow in the US presidential elections, the Iranian nuclear program, economic cooperation and, above all, the battered bilateral relations were some of the topics that Trump and Putin were expected to deal with.