HAMBURG, Germany -- U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have begun their talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, with Trump saying he looks forward to a “lot of very positive things” for Moscow and Washington.
The two leaders made brief comments on July 7 sitting before the press in Hamburg, where Trump said it was “an honor" to meet with his Russian counterpart and Putin saying he was “delighted” to meet the American president.
“President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it’s going very well,” Trump said, adding that the two leaders were “going to have talks now.”
The meeting, the first face-to-face sit-down between the two men since Trump took office in January, comes amid a deepening crisis in bilateral relations over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, as well as alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
The G20 summit is taking place amid violent street protests outside and tensions inside the venue over trade issues and climate change.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s official welcome to leaders of major industrialized countries came as some protesters attacked a police station, torched police cars, and attacked security at a hotel where Putin and other foreign leaders were staying.
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Hamburg police said a demonstrator also fired a flare gun at a police helicopter, narrowly missing the aircraft.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters that world leaders at the summit were not "blind or deaf" to the violence on the streets, where dozens of police and anticapitalist protesters were injured in clashes on the eve of the July 7-8 event.
The meeting between Trump and Putin is aimed at stemming a deepening crisis in bilateral relations over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, as well as alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
In a speech in Warsaw on July 6, Trump called on Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere” and stressed Washington’s commitment to NATO, which Putin has long accused of stoking tensions in Eastern Europe.
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Trump had previously called into question NATO's relevance and Washington’s commitment to the alliance’s central mutual-defense tenet.
EU President Donald Tusk told reporters in Hamburg on July 7 that the U.S. president’s words in Warsaw were “surprisingly promising.”
"We have been waiting for a long time to hear these words from President Trump. But the real question is if this was a one-time incident or a new policy," Tusk said at a news conference together with Juncker.
Peskov was quoted by Russia’s state-run TASS news agency as saying that Putin had been "thoroughly" informed of Trump’s statements in Poland and "has been taking it all into account."
Trump has repeatedly called for improving ties with Moscow, though his administration has continued to publicly maintain pressure on Russia -- including with sanctions -- over its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
On the eve of the G20 summit, violence between police and protesters near the venue of the injured dozens of police and anticapitalist protesters.
Hamburg police on July 7 deployed water cannons to stem unrest after the police station was attacked and police cars were torched.
Some protesters chanted "We are peaceful. What are you?" as police attempted to disperse a crowd and dragged some demonstrators away forcefully.
German federal police said on Twitter that "an operation is under way against violent individuals" who tossed incendiary devices and set fire to police cars in Hamburg’s Altona district.
Around 75 police officers were injured during clashes late on July 6, with three requiring treatment in hospitals, police said. The pilots of a police helicopter sustained eye injuries when laser pointers were directed at them, police said.
Police spokesman Andy Grote told reporters on July 7 that 45 protesters had been detained and an additional 15 taken into custody. By early afternoon on July 7, Grote said 160 police officers had been injured during several days of protests -- mostly with minor injuries.
The street demonstrations and violence left U.S. first lady Melania Trump stranded at her residence in Hamburg on July 7, preventing her from attending an event on climate change for spouses of political leaders.
"The Hamburg police could not give us clearance to leave [the residence]," Trump's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, was quoted by AFP as saying.
About 13,000 protesters took to the streets on July 6, including about 1,000 black-clad and masked anarchists. Police expect as many as 100,000 protesters to descend on the port city during the weekend summit. Germany has deployed some 20,000 police to provide security.
Tensions simmered among world leaders ahead of the summit, as well, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel struggled to reach agreement on the wording of a communique to be issued by the leaders of the 20 largest economies addressing everything from terrorism and trade to climate change and migration.
After a July 6 meeting between Merkel and Trump, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said "clear differences" on climate change and trade continued to divide the two allies, though they also found "many commonalities."
"The question is whether the Americans remain convinced that the only thing that counts on global trade is whether America is the winner or not," Gabriel told public broadcaster ARD.
"Or can we manage to convince the Americans that if everyone plays by the same rules, then this will be best for everyone," he said.
The G20 leaders used to routinely issue pledges to fight protectionism, but Trump's "America First" trade policy has hampered consensus among world leaders on globalization and trade since he took office.
Juncker told reporters on July 7 that the 28-member block would respond should Washington decide to impose punitive tariffs on steel.
"Should the U.S. introduce tariffs on European steel imports, Europe is ready to react immediately and adequately," Juncker said.
The group appeared unlikely to be able to reach a consensus on climate change as well, as world leaders stepped up pressure on Trump in the wake of his withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
"We are not renegotiating the Paris agreement. That stays. But I want to see the U.S. looking for ways to rejoin it," British Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC.