05:08 GMT03 August 2021
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    The Russian and US presidents held the first face-to-face talks of Joe Biden's presidency in Switzerland on Wednesday, discussing a broad array of issues and coming to an agreement on several problems, including nuclear weapons and the return of ambassadors.

    President Joe Biden "openly challenged" Russian President Vladimir Putin on a number of issues at their Geneva summit, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said.

    Speaking to reporters Thursday and responding to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's suggestion earlier in the day that Biden "gave Vladimir Putin a pass" during their talks instead of "standing up" for US interests against Russia's "long list of transgressions," Sullivan said the lawmaker's comments were "belied by the voluminous evidence that President Biden challenged President Putin on a range of issues that the previous president, who Representative McCarthy supported strongly, gave President Putin a pass on."

    Sullivan nonetheless characterised Wednesday's summit as unusually "productive" and substantive, with real tangible results to show for it.

    "I really do not believe that it is hyperbole to say that Joe Biden returns from this trip as the clear and the consensus leader of the free world," Sullivan said of Biden's European tour, which in addition to the summit with Putin also included attendance of the G7, NATO and European Union-United States summits.

    Sullivan also confirmed that Biden and Putin had discussed locally-employed staff at one another's diplomatic missions, and that the Russian president had assured his US counterpart that the US Embassy in Moscow would be properly staffed. The official said Biden encouraged Putin to be "practical and flexible" on the Embassy issue.

    The official further noted that cybersecurity was one of the issues discussed, and that the US "will be able to see in the months ahead whether progress [in this area] "is possible, or whether we will simply have to take action to safeguard our interests because progress hasn't occurred."

    The national security advisor also commented on other foreign policy matters, saying that Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had discussed Ankara's purchase of S-400 air defence systems, but failed to come to an agreement. Dialogue will continue, Sullivan said. The official urged Turkey not to allow Taliban warnings about the consequences of the deployment of Turkish security forces in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal to deter Ankara from doing so.

    Sullivan also commented on US-China relations, indicating that the White House is planning to arrange a call or face-to-face meeting between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and promising that Biden will engage with Xi "in some way" in the coming months.

    Putin Hopes Deep State Won't Drag Biden Down

    Earlier on Thursday, reflecting on his summit meeting with the US president, Putin offered praise for Biden, saying the image of him drawn by both the Russian and Western media doesn't correspond to reality, calling him a "professional" and saying he had shown himself to be in command of the issues that the two men discussed.

    Putin expressed hope that Biden would be "allowed to work in peace," and that Russia-US relations would not be allowed to be dragged down in "a repeat of what happened in previous years," in a reference to the Russiagate conspiracy theory that hounded Biden's predecessor throughout his presidency.

    Officials in both Moscow and Washington have indicated that they were left with a "rather positive" impression of Wednesday's summit meeting, with the two countries coming to an agreement on the need to prevent a nuclear escalation at all costs, and approving the return of ambassadors to their respective posts. The two sides also discussed cybersecurity, trade, NATO and Russian military manoeuvres, and the diplomatic and/or military conflicts in Belarus, Syria, Ukraine and other countries.

    In his remarks Thursday, Putin said he was "ready to continue this dialogue" as far as the US side wants to take it, and that talks were important because "when people do not speak at all, more and more mutual claims and concerns arise where they otherwise would not exist."

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