Putin says still 'open to dialogue' with US

Moscow (AFP) –


Russian President Vladimir Putin has reassured his US counterpart Donald Trump that Moscow remains "open to dialogue" despite the year ending without the hoped-for warming of relations, the Kremlin said on Sunday.

"Russian-US relations remain an important factor in order to guarantee strategic stability and international security," the presidency said in a New Year statement.

Putin "has confirmed that Russia is open to dialogue with the United States on the maximum number of subjects," the statement added.

In December 2017, Putin said he hoped to "normalise" relations with Donald Trump but the chances of that evaporated with multiple investigations of Moscow's alleged meddling in US politics.

Washington this year dramatically announced its intention to pull out of a key Cold War-era nuclear weapons deal -- the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty -- to which Putin responded that Moscow would develop new missiles.

Putin also sent messages to other heads of state including Britain's Theresa May and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In his message to May, Putin wished the British people "wellbeing and prosperity" in 2019.

In 2018, relations between London and Moscow were badly damaged by the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on UK soil.

Britain pointed the finger at Russia, but Moscow denied any involvement.

Addressing President Erdogan, Putin underlined the "promising direction" of relations between Moscow and Ankara after the completion of the offshore phase of the TurkStream gas pipeline underneath the Black Sea and the start of work on Turkey's first nuclear power station, which is being built by Russia.

"The Russian head of state confirmed that the joint forces of Moscow and Ankara will make a final decision on the fight against terrorism in Syria and the continuation of the process of political regulation," the Kremlin said.

After the surprise announcement of the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, Russia and Turkey agreed on Saturday to "coordinate" their actions on the ground, including the return of refugees and the creation of a demilitarised zone in Idlib, the last bastion of rebels in the country.