Putin tells Trump in New Year’s letter he’s open to meeting

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has told United States (US) President Donald Trump in a New Year’s letter that the Kremlin is “open to dialogue” on the myriad issues hindering relations between their countries.

The Kremlin published a summary of Putin’s “greeting message” to Trump last Sunday. The summary states the Russian leader wrote: “Russia-US relations are the most important factor behind ensuring strategic stability and international security.”

Trump cancelled a formal meeting with Putin scheduled for December 1 at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, tweeting “it would be best for all parties” given Russia’s seizure days earlier of three Ukrainian naval vessels.

Since then, the Kremlin has repeatedly said it is open to dialogue.

The message to Trump was among dozens of holiday greetings Putin sent to other world leaders, each tailored to reflect a bilateral theme.

File photo shows US President Donald Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin. – AP

The recipients included Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom Putin has backed throughout a civil war that started in 2011.

Putin’s message to Assad “stressed that Russia will continue to provide all-around assistance to the government and people of Syria in their fight against terrorism and efforts to protect state sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the Kremlin summary.

Moscow hosted talks with Turkey last Saturday in which the two countries agreed to coordinate actions in northern Syria after Trump’s announcement that he was withdrawing US forces from the country.

The main group of Kurdish-led forces fighting against Assad with US support has said the US pullout could lead to the revival of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Putin, in his message to Assad, “wished the Syrian people the earliest return to peaceful and prosperous life”.