- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2017

President Trump brought up Russia’s interference in the U.S. election at the start of his first face-to-face meeting Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, sparking “a very robust and lengthy exchange” at the G-20 Summit, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said.

“The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement,” said Mr. Tillerson, who attended the highly anticipated meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Mr. Tillerson provided a reporters a readout of the meeting, which was scheduled for 30 minutes but lasted for 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Mr. Tillerson provided a readout of the meeting for reporters.

He said that despite Mr. Putin’s denial on interference, the Russia president agreed to work on a commitment for “noninterference” with U.S. affairs and to pursue larger agreements on cybersecurity issues.

Mr. Tillerson said there was a general agreement that the Russian interference issue “is a substantial hindrance to us to move the U.S.-Russia relationship forward and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of noninterference in affairs of United States and our democratic process as well as other countries.”

Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and Democrats’ unsubstantiated allegations of Trump campaign collusion had overshadowed the meeting, which included other critical issues such as the Syria civil war and the disputed Russian annexation of Crimea.

On cybersecurity, Mr. Tillerson said the two countries were putting together a working group to hammer out an agreement.

“We agreed to set up a working group to begin to explore this framework agreement around this cyber issue,” he said. “It’ll be out of the state department and the national security advisers office.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin have not scheduled another get-together, but Mr. Tillerson said much progress was made in the presidents’ first sit-down.

“The meeting was very constructive. The two leaders I would say connected very quickly. There was a very clear positive chemistry between the two,” he said. “I’ve had many, many meetings with Putin before, there was not a lot of re-litigating of the past. There are a lot of things in the past that both of us are unhappy about. We’re unhappy they’re unhappy.”

Mr. Tillerson also quipped that the meeting ran so long aides sent in first lady Melania Trump to break it up, but her effort failed and the presidents continued talking for another hour.

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