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article imageUS security chief says 'productive' talks in Moscow despite treaty pull out

By Maria ANTONOVA (AFP)     Oct 23, 2018 in World

US National Security Advisor John Bolton on Tuesday praised "productive" talks with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials despite an earlier announcement by Washington that it would pull out of a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty.

Bolton was in Moscow for two days of talks with the Russian defence and foreign ministers, among others, after US leader Donald Trump declared he was ditching the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

"I had a series of very comprehensive and productive discussions," Bolton told a press conference after the visit.

A 90-minute meeting with Putin on Tuesday touched on the conflict in Syria and alleged election meddling by Russia as well as Trump's decision on the arms agreement, he said.

"We had lengthy conversations about arms control issues, the new strategic landscape and the INF treaty" he said.

Signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, the INF resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.

Bolton described it as "a Cold-War bilateral treaty in a multipolar world" that did not cover the activities of countries such as China or North Korea.

He said he would want the US to remain in the treaty "if I were living in Beijing. But I am not".

A formal notice of withdrawal has yet to be filed but will be "in due course", he added. Moscow and Washington have both accused the other of violating the agreement.

Bolton said the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, another Soviet-era agreement that was abandoned by George W. Bush, was previously considered a cornerstone of global security but that the world had remained safe without it.

However the withdrawal from that deal created immense ill-will in Russia and Putin this year described the unilateral decision as the beginning of a new arms race.

- Trump, Putin meeting -

Earlier on Tuesday Bolton said Trump wished to meet Putin when the two visit Paris on November 11 for World War I commemorations.

The last time the pair met was in Helsinki this summer, after which Trump was criticised at home for failing to publicly address sensitive issues with his Russian counterpart.

Moscow-Washington ties are under deep strain over accusations Moscow meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. The two states are also at odds over Russian support for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria's civil war, and the conflict in Ukraine.

"We discussed our continuing concern with Russian meddling in elections and why it was particularly harmful for Russian-American relations without producing anything in return," Bolton said of his meeting with Putin.

The pair also discussed the last major Syrian rebel-held bastion of Idlib.

"I reiterated what President Trump said on avoiding human catastrophe there," Bolton said of the fate of the province.

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