Slovenia's president said Monday his invitation to host a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin still stands despite the talk of the Kremlin's meddling in the American elections.
Borut Pahor told The Associated Press that a "tradition" of first meetings between U.S. and Russian presidents in the small Alpine state shouldn't be discarded — and Slovenia is also the U.S. first lady's native land.
In June 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush and Putin had their first face-to-face meeting in Slovenia to explore the possibility of compromise on U.S. missile defense plans that Moscow opposed.
"Slovenia has officially expressed readiness ... it is ready to be the host of this meeting," said Pahor, whose country is a member of the EU but has traditional ties with Russia. "They would be welcome in fine atmosphere."
Melania Trump — born Melanija Knavs — left Slovenia in her 20s to pursue an international modeling career.
"Probably it would be attractive for the president of the United States because the first lady is from our country," Pahor said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they decide differently, it's their decision."
Putin has said Slovenia would be a good venue, but added that it's not only up to him.
Pahor said he had "briefly" discussed the issue with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
"He was polite, but his answer wasn't final," Pahor said.
The Slovenia "tradition" was interrupted during Barack Obama's presidency. He first met Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow, where he later had his first meeting with Putin, then the premier.
Trump has been trailed for months by questions about his campaign's ties to Russia. Compounding the situation is the U.S. intelligence agencies' assessment that Russia interfered with the election to help Trump triumph over Hillary Clinton, along with disclosures about his aides' contacts with a Russian official.
In the wide-ranging interview, Pahor also spoke about the upcoming departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the upcoming elections in France and Germany where right-wing populists are vying for power.
"I told [European Commission President Jean-Claude] Juncker and other of my friends in Europe that if we don't offer an alternative in a short term, there could be problems," Pahor said.
"Brexit is a historic sign that something is terribly wrong," Pahor said. "More than one half of voters [in Britain] did not recognize the solution in Europe."
He said that the Franco-German alliance remained key to any future EU plans and counted on Paris and Berlin to drive that process following elections.
"I cannot imagine what would happen if France would live the EU," Pahor said.