Trump, Putin discuss oil price plunge, coronavirus over phone

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed plunging oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday.

The two "expressed serious concern regarding the scope of the spread of the coronavirus" and "discussed closer cooperation," according to a Kremlin statement on what it described as a "lengthy" phone call. 

The White House said in a separate statement that Trump and Putin had "agreed to work closely together through the G20" against the virus and the economic shock resulting from travel bans and social distancing. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. /Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. /Reuters

Both statements reported that the oil market turmoil was discussed, with the White House version stating agreement on the "importance of stability in global energy markets." The Kremlin's version said they "exchanged opinions" on oil. 

Earlier, Trump had said he was going to use the call to raise objections over a Russian-Saudi price war driving down world oil prices and "really hurting" the U.S. energy industry. "This is a fight between Saudi Arabia and Russia... and they both went crazy," Trump told Fox News in an interview shortly before talking to Putin.  

"I never thought I'd be saying that maybe we have to have an oil (prices) increase, because we do," Trump said. 


Trump also told Fox he expected Putin would use the call to push for a lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russia. 

"He'll probably ask for that," Trump told Fox News. "He's been asking that for two years." 

Trump did not say what his response would be, noting that he had put sanctions on Russia but adding: "They don't like that. Frankly we should be able to get along." 

Neither the Kremlin nor the White House statement mentioned sanctions. 

Last Thursday, Putin told G20 leaders during a conference call that he wanted a moratorium on sanctions as a "matter of life and death" during the global coronavirus outbreak. In the comments, Putin did not specify which countries he was talking about but Russia is being hit hard by the economic fallout from the coronavirus and the parallel oil price drop. 

The White House statement said, "President Trump reiterated that the situation in Venezuela is dire, and we all have an interest in seeing a democratic transition to end the ongoing crisis." 

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also discussed the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic during a phone conversation at the initiative of the U.S. side, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday. 

"The intention was confirmed to facilitate the implementation of decisions reached at the G20 summit held on March 26 in a video conference format," it said. 

They also discussed other pressing issues on the international agenda, including the situation in the sphere of strategic stability and the Syrian settlement, as well as some problems of bilateral relations, it added. 

(With input from Reuters and Xinhua)