Advisers are preparing for a “planned” summit between United States President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin with one newspaper reporting on Monday that the two will meet in Switzerland next month.
An advance US mission has already arrived in Geneva for that purpose, the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger added, citing “reliable sources”. Plane spotters reported on Twitter seeing an unusual US cargo aircraft landing at the city’s airport on Sunday.
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The Tages-Anzeiger said the time and venue of a Biden-Putin meeting remains unclear though it would likely take place in Geneva in the next few weeks.
It would not likely take place before next Monday’s US Memorial Day holiday, as most of Biden’s schedule through the holiday has already been made public and does not involve international travel.
But US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev held talks in Geneva on Monday as part of preparations for a summit, according to a joint statement.
“The discussions were held in a constructive manner and, despite outstanding differences, allowed for a better understanding of each other’s positions,” according to the statement.
“The meeting was an important step in the preparation for a planned U.S.-Russia summit, the date and location of which will be announced later,” the statement said.
The Russian daily Kommersant last week mentioned Geneva as the most likely location for a summit.
Biden said earlier this month he expected to meet Putin soon, adding that continuing differences between the two countries would not need to be resolved in advance of a summit.
The Biden administration would like to add a summit with Putin in a third country while the US president is in Europe in mid-June for a Group of Seven meeting in Britain and talks with NATO allies in Brussels.
In the latest incident souring Western-Russian relations, a warplane dispatched by Kremlin ally Belarus intercepted a Ryanair flight between Greece and Lithuania and forced it down in Minsk, where a dissident journalist aboard was arrested.
The Swiss Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the Tages-Anzeiger report but said Switzerland would be prepared to offer “its good offices when they are useful and desired”, a ministry spokeswoman said.
Switzerland has hosted such summits before. In 1985, then-US President Ronald Reagan met Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva what became a turning point towards the end of the Cold War, leading to other summits in Iceland and Washington.