Putin, Trump may meet next week at APEC summit

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump may meet next week at an Asian economic summit amid strains over sanctions against Moscow, the Syria conflict and the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall to meet with members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool

The Kremlin on Friday said talks were under way to set up an encounter at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Danang, Vietnam, from Nov. 8-10.

Trump told Fox News in an interview late on Thursday that it was possible he would meet with Putin during the trip.

“We may have a meeting with Putin,” he said. “And, again – Putin is very important because they can help us with North Korea. They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.”

Representatives for the White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Friday.

“It (the meeting) is indeed being discussed,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “It’s hard to overestimate the importance and significance for all international matters of any contact between the presidents of Russia and the United States.”

Putin and Trump first met at a G20 summit in Hamburg in July when they discussed allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election last year but agreed to focus on better ties rather than litigating the past.

But relations between Moscow and Washington have soured further since then.

Trump in August grudgingly signed off on new sanctions against Russia, a move Moscow said ended hopes for better ties. Putin ordered Washington to cut its embassy and consular staff in Russia by more than half.

Tensions have also flared over the conflict in Syria.

If it the Trump-Putin meeting comes about, it would come as investigations in Washington over alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign yielded its first indictments.

U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s office this week unveiled charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Manafort associate Richard Gates and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty while Papadapoulos pleaded guilty.

The Wall Street Journal also has reported that U.S. authorities have enough evidence to charge six members of the Russian government in the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers during the 2016 campaign.

Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya in Moscow and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Maria Kiselyova and Bill Trott