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Putin floats summit with Trump in Slovenia, first lady's birthplace

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday floated the idea of meeting President Trump face-to-face in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia and birthplace of first lady Melania Trump.

"Ljubljana — and Slovenia in general — is of course a great place to hold such dialogue," Putin said at a press conference with visiting Slovenian President Borut Pahor, who has eagerly pushed the idea, the Russian Interfax news agency and RT.com reported.

"If this meeting takes place someday, we have nothing against Ljubljana (as the venue)," Putin said.

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He pointed out that "(it) depends not only on us, but we are naturally ready for it."

Slovenia Prime Minister Miro Cerar first raised the prospect of a U.S.-Russia summit in his country as far back as November, three weeks after the U.S. elections. He said the tiny Alpine country, where Melania Trump was born and raised, "could become a bridge between the two superpowers," The Guardian reported.

Putin noted, according to RT.com, that he met with then-President Obama in the Slovenian capital. He was apparently referring to his June 2001 meeting in Slovenia with then-president Bush. It was at that venue, the first meeting between the two men, where Bush told reporters that he looked Putin in the eye and "found him very straight-forward and trustworthy — I was able to get a sense of his soul."

On Friday, Putin also said the Kremlin hopes for "full relations with the U.S." and welcomed Trump's "position on the matter." Trump and Putin spoke by phone last week for the first time since the president's inauguration.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated over the past five years, the Russian president told reporters, according to RT.com, and "require recovery in the interests of both the Russian and American people."

"We always welcomed that and we hope that relations will be restored in full in all areas," Putin added, according to the Associated Press. "It relates to trade and economic ties, security issues and various regions of the world, which are suffering from numerous conflicts. By pooling our efforts, we naturally would be able to significantly contribute to solving those issues, including the fight against international terrorism."

"By joining our efforts, we could make a considerable contribution to settling these issues, including fighting international terrorism," the Russian president said.

Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC in January that it could take months, not weeks, to arrange a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders.

As part of Obama's early effort to "reset" ties with Moscow, the two nations in 2010 signed a pivotal arms control pact that set new lower caps on the number of warheads in each country.

On Friday, Peskov said the prospects of extending the New START Treaty, set to expire in 2021, will "depend on the position of our American partners" and require negotiations.

He wouldn't say whether the Kremlin favors extending the pact that limited Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads each.

Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Peskov pointed to a "certain break in dialogue on strategic security issues" during the Obama administration, and said Moscow and Washington now need "an update of information and positions."

Reuters reported Thursday that when the arms treaty came up during the call last week between Trump and Putin, the U.S. president purportedly turned to an aide to ask about it, then returned to the call to denounce the treaty as favoring Russia.

The Kremlin on Friday refused to comment on the leaked details of the discussion.

"I couldn't confirm this," Peskov told reporters in a phone call. "We've already reported everything that we considered necessary about the results of the telephone conversation. We have nothing to add."