The White House confirmed Tuesday morning that President Trump will hold an official bilateral meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of this week’s Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Germany, according to reports, as opposed to a more casual engagement.
Trump will also meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Hamburg event, NBC News said.
The Putin meeting will be the first full-fledged bilateral meeting between a U.S. and Russian leader in two years, when former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWhite House details Trump meeting with Putin Pentagon withholding nuclear weapons inspection results: report John Oliver hits Sinclair Broadcast Group for conservative bias MORE held tense talks with Putin.
The highly anticipated meeting with also be the first time Trump comes face to face with the Russian leader since his election. The bilateral encounter comes as a special counsel is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt” and has repeatedly denied any improper coordination or contact with Russian officials.
It’s not yet known if Trump will raise the issue of Russia’s meddling during the meeting.
Indeed it’s not clear what the two men will discuss when they meet later this week, though the ongoing civil war in Syria is almost certain to come up. Russia backs the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in that conflict, while the U.S. supports rebel groups.
Both nations have targeted terrorist groups in the region, including ISIS.
“There’s no specific agenda. It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said at a press briefing last week.
Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to foster warmer relations between the U.S. and Russia, pushing for increased cooperation between the two countries in the fight against the Islamic State.