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In-town pool report #6
Peter Baker • The New York Times
April 12, 2017: 06:00 PM


A senior administration official briefed on background. Since there was such short notice and it sounds like the audio on the call wasn't terrific, here are some quick slices:

The main theme was that this has been a successful week or so for Potus on the international stage, including the retaliation against Syria, the summit with President Xi and today's U.N. vote. "It's difficult to portray this as anything but a really great week" for the United States.

The official said that Russia "engaged in a very sophisticated propaganda and disinformation campaign to allow the Assad campaign to escape responsibility for these heinous acts" but it now has a "tremendous opportunity" to play a constructive role. "We owe it to humanity, we owe it to the Syrian people to do everything we can to allow Russia to play a productive role."

The official said it will be up to Secretary Tillerson to decide whether to work with the Astana process. As for whether the leaders themselves might eventually meet, "That's up to the president and President Putin." The official noted that Potus does not hew to a fixed approach. "He is not doctrinaire about very many things and he will look at this opportunistically." Potus, the official added, is "someone who sees possibilities where many others would see difficulties." In general, "it's much better to talk than to not talk."

China's abstention at the UN was "another significant victory for all civilized peoples because it really showed how isolated the Assad regime and its international sponsors" are.

The official credited China's abstention to the summit where Potus forged an important relationship with Xi. "It was a very warm conversation," the official said. The official added that the personal touches were important and Xi meeting Potus's grandchildren "had a big effect on their relationship."

"It was a great conversation and I think President Xi's decision speaks for itself in terms of his leadership and his determination to not obstruct the U.N."

The official declined to divulge what was discussed on last night's phone call between Potus and Xi. But the official denied that the currency manipulation decision was a direct tradeoff for support on Syria. "Both decisions were made on the merits of those decisions, separately. There was no explicit linkage that I'm aware of between those issues."



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