US president asserts special relationship with Britain but does not signal is supportive of preserving measures, which he has said he may review

Donald Trump attempted to put up a united front work with key friend Theresa May on Friday but stopped short of endorsing her commitment to continued sanctions on Russia.

At his first press conference with a foreign leader, the US president reaffirmed the special relationship with Britain, praised Brexit as a wonderful thing and indicated his support for the Nato military alliance.

But ahead of a phone conversation with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, due to take place on Saturday, Trump and May appeared at odds on whether sanctions must remain in place until Russia fulfils its obligations under the Minsk agreement.

Well, I hear a call was set up and well see what happens, Trump told reporters during a brisk 18 -minute press conference at the White House with the British prime minister. As far as international sanctions, very early to be talking about that, but we look to have a great relationship with all countries, ideally. That wont necessarily happen.

Unfortunately, it probably wont happen with many countries But if it is possible to have a great relationship with Russia, and China, and all countries, Im all for that, that would be a tremendous asset. No assures, but if it is possible to, that would be a positive , not a negative.

Trump has said in the past that he is prepared to review the sanctions that Washington imposed on Russia in response to its 2014 annexation of Ukraines Crimea peninsula.

May, by contrast, told the press conference she believes that sanctions against Russia should remain in place. We believe international sanctions should continue until we see that Minsk agreement full implemented and weve been continuing to argue that inside the European Union.

The Minsk accords were signed in 2014 and 2015 to guide a peace process in eastern Ukraine but have failed to bring about a ceasefire. They stipulate that Ukraine must hold elections in the Donbas region while Russia must guarantee Ukraines control of its eastern perimeter and allow international monitors full access to occupied territories.

Trumps business interests in Russia, and his repeated kudo for Putin, have described widespread scrutiny. House and Senate intelligence committees are to investigate alleged ties between Moscow and the Trump election campaign.

The issue of sanctions was just one where Trump who made reference to his Scottish mother and May studiously avoided overt disagreement. The leaders held hands briefly as they walked from the Oval Office to the East Room of the White House, but their differences, both political and personal, were also inescapably on display.

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