Trump said on Friday that Moscow should return to the Group of Seven industrialized nations, known as G7, as he prepared to fly to Canada to attend the three-day conference.
“This used to be the G8 because Russia was in it, and now Russia’s not in it,” he said outside the White House.
“Why are we having a meeting without Russia? I would recommend, and it is up to them, but Russia should be at the meeting,” Trump noted. “They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
Back in 2014, six western powers – the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy – plus Japan decided to suspend Moscow from the G8 forum over the country’s alleged role in the Ukrainian conflict, especially Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
The armed conflict erupted after Crimea voted for joining Russia in a March 2014 referendum. The West brands the development as Moscow’s “annexation” of the territory. The US and its allies in Europe accuse Russia of having a hand in that conflict, an allegation denied by Moscow.
The fighting has left over 10,000 people dead and more than a million others displaced, according to the United Nations.
Led by the United States, Western governments have imposed rounds of security and economic sanctions on Russia since then.
Russia announced its permanent withdrawal from the G8 in 2017.
Kremlin reacts to Trump’s call
In response to Trump’s remark concerning Moscow’s participation in the G7 meeting, Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov appeared to snub the idea and said, “Russia is focused on other formats.”
“The relevance of this body is losing relevance over the years from the Russian perspective,” he added. “In the changing international political and economic situation, the importance of formats such as the G20, where Russia is an active participant, is growing rapidly.”
Trump’s comment came a day after he engaged in a bitter back-and-forth with leaders of France and Canada on Twitter over international trade issues.
Other leaders of the G7 are also set to clash with the US president as they pressure him to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum exports in a bid to avoid a possible trade war.
Trump announced on Friday that he had plans to use the G7 summit to resolve what he called unfair trade deals with US allies.
“Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G7 countries. If it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!,” Trump said in a tweet.
Much of the member states’ anger stems from the recently-imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports by Washington. Relations have also been soured by the US pullout from the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump is scheduled to leave the G7 meeting in the Canadian province of Quebec early on Saturday for Singapore to prepare for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Tuesday.