Washington, Jan 28 : US President Donald Trump plans to open a dialogue with Russia that could lead to lifting of American sanctions, even as Britains visiting Prime Minister Theresa May and key Republican senators urged him not to let up the pressure on the Kremlin until it reverses its armed intervention in Ukraine, the media reported.
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin intended to talk by telephone on Saturday about fighting terrorism in the Middle East, a collaboration that would represent a significant turnabout from years of friction between the two countries, the New York Times reported.
At the direction of the White House, US officials have been preparing memos outlining possible common ground, including the prospect of removing some or all of the sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama.
Trump has suggested lifting the punitive measures in exchange for nuclear arms cuts and Russian cooperation in fighting the Islamic State, according to the report.
Asked about sanctions, the US President on Friday played down the possibility of quick action, but did not rule it out.
“As for sanctions, very early to be talking about that,” Trump said at a White House conference with British PM Theresa May. “But we look to have a great relationship with all countries, ideally.”
May warned Trump against easing sanctions unless Russia abides by a peace settlement for Ukraine negotiated in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Senator John McCain of Arizona also warned Trump against lifting sanctions and vowed to push legislation reinstating them if he does, a measure that has strong bipartisan support, including from Republicans like Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who has largely shunned confrontation with Trump, has also been a longstanding opponent of lifting sanctions, a position he forcefully reiterated on Friday.
According to the New York Times, one topic that may come up on Saturday’s call is the fate of Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who disappeared in Syria in 2012.
Trump may ask Putin for help in pressuring Russia’s ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, to release Tice, according to an official briefed on the matter.
Syria has never acknowledged holding him, but Trump has considered dropping support for the Syrian opposition.