MOSCOW (Reuters) - Slovenia would be a good place for a first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin said on Friday, but he said the choice of venue would not be Moscow’s alone.
Putin made the comments after Slovenian President Borut Pahor offered Ljubljana, his country’s capital, as a venue for a meeting between the Russian and U.S. leaders who have not met since Trump’s inauguration last month.
Trump and Putin have both said they would like to try to mend battered U.S.-Russia ties, which fell to their lowest level since the Cold War after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
Putin made it clear that no date for such a meeting had yet been agreed, but said he was keen to try to restore Russian-U.S. relations in full.
“As regards Ljubljana, Slovenia in general, it is of course a brilliant place to have a dialogue of such a sort. But it doesn’t depend only on us, it depends on a whole series of circumstances,” Putin told reporters after meeting Pahor in Moscow.
“If these meetings ever happen, we don’t have anything against Ljubljana,” Putin said.
European Union member state Slovenia was the venue for the first meeting between George W. Bush and Putin in 2001 where the then American leader made what became a famous comment about looking Putin in the eye and getting “a sense of his soul.”
It is also where Melania Trump, the U.S. president’s wife, grew up.
The Kremlin sees Slovenia as an ally in its quest to end Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.
Russia was a big export market for Slovenian food products before the Ukraine crisis, and Slovenia remains keen to be a transit country for Russian gas supplies to southern Europe.
Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Andrew Osborn