Trump calls Putin, Merkel, Hollande, Abe and Turnbull
President Donald Trump discussed Syria and the fight against so-called Islamic State with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday in one of several calls with world leaders that the new US leader used to put his stamp on international affairs.
Trump's call with Putin was their first since the New York businessman took office and came as officials said he was considering lifting sanctions on Moscow despite opposition from Democrats and Republicans at home and European allies abroad.
Neither the White House nor the Kremlin mentioned a discussion of sanctions in their statements about the roughly hour-long call.
"The positive call was a significant start to improving the relationship between the US and Russia that is in need of repair," the White House said. "Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today's call the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern."
Telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump https://t.co/mjp9Tta1sE— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) January 28, 2017
Former President Barack Obama strongly suggested in December that Putin personally authorised the computer hacks of Democratic Party emails that US intelligence officials say were part of a Russian effort aimed at helping Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November 8 election.
Trump's relationship with Russia is being closely watched by the EU, which teamed up with the US to punish Moscow after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
MERKEL, HOLLANDE, TURNBULL, ABE TALKS
Trump spoke to two top EU leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, on Saturday in addition to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
His call with Merkel, who had a very close relationship with Trump's predecessor, Obama, included a discussion about Russia, the Ukraine crisis, and NATO.
Trump's executive order restricting travel and instituting "extreme vetting" of visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries already puts him at odds with Merkel, whose embrace of Syrian refugees was praised by Obama even as it created political problems for her domestically.
Trump has said previously that Merkel made a "catastrophic mistake" by permitting more than a million refugees, mostly Muslims fleeing war in the Middle East, to come to her country.
In his call with Hollande, Trump "reaffirmed the US commitment to NATO and noted the importance of all NATO allies sharing the burden on defence spending," the White House said.
Hollande warned Trump against taking a protectionist approach, which he said would have “economic and political consequences”, according to a statement from the French president's office.
During his call with Japan's Abe, Trump affirmed an "ironclad" US commitment to ensuring Japan's security. The two leaders also discussed the threat posed by North Korea. They plan to meet in Washington early next month.
Trump spoke to Australia's Turnbull for 25 minutes and emphasised the close relationship between the two countries.