MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Wednesday it needed to understand if there was political will in Washington to cooperate with Russia as it prepared for a meeting between U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev.
The two men are due to meet in Geneva for talks on Thursday in the first high-level meeting since the Russian and U.S. presidents held talks in Helsinki in July.
Patrushev plans to bring Bolton a set of proposals on cooperation between Moscow and Washington and is optimistic about the reaction from the American side, he was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency in Geneva on Wednesday evening.
Themes like “strategic stability, regional security,” the situations in Syria and Ukraine as well as bilateral relations between Russia and the United States are expected to be discussed during the meeting, Patrushev added.
U.S. President Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, an event Moscow quickly chalked up as a triumph. However, a new salvo of U.S. sanctions was announced in the wake of the meeting after Trump came under fire at home for his handling of the summit.
“The worsening of bilateral relations is continuing, we need to identify some kind of areas for cooperation and also to understand if there are any such areas and whether our counterpart (the United States) has a desire for this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
Peskov said Putin had met his Security Council on Wednesday to discuss problems in U.S.-Russia relations ahead of the meeting between Bolton and Patrushev.
During a trip to Israel on Wednesday, Bolton told Reuters that Russian forces were “stuck” in Syria and that Moscow was looking for other countries to fund post-war reconstruction there.
Russia launched an intervention in Syria in 2015, turning the tide of the war in favour of its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Peskov said Moscow disagreed with Bolton’s statement, saying Moscow was helping to facilitate the return of refugees to Syria and to start the reconstruction process.
“The statement that Russia is stuck is not correct, even more so coming from our colleagues in Washington. We shouldn’t forget that American soldiers are also on Syrian territory,” said Peskov.
Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya and Polina Devitt; writing by Tom Balmforth and Polina Devitt; editing by Andrew Osborn and Toby Chopra