The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to step up U.S.-Russian diplomatic efforts on Syria.
The Russian government says the two leaders agreed in a telephone call Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will intensify their efforts to bring about a cease-fire, with the goal of beginning a real peace process in Syria.
The Kremlin characterized the call as “business-like” and “constructive.”
A Russian news agency says Trump and Putin also discussed holding their first in-person meeting in July on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany.
The White House says Trump and Putin held a “very good” conversation about the ongoing crisis on Syria.
A White House readout of the phone calls says the two leaders discussed the creation of safe zones in Syria, and agreed that the suffering in Syria “has gone on for far too long.”
Reporters in the U.S. were unable to ask questions about the phone call during the White House daily press briefing because Press Secretary Sean Spicer left without taking questions.
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Tuesday’s call was the first known discussion between the leaders since the U.S. missile strikes against a Syrian government air base. Russia is one of the Syrian regime’s most important backers.
Despite having previously warned against U.S. intervention in Syria, Trump ordered the strikes against Syrian government targets in early April after accusing the regime of using chemical weapons in a deadly attack on civilians. The U.S. action was accompanied by a dramatic shift in the Trump administration’s rhetoric toward Russia, one of the Syrian government’s most important benefactors.
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Trump, who spent months touting the prospect of warmer ties with Putin, declared after the strikes that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia “may be at an all-time low.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley also sharply condemned Moscow’s role in supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Yet Trump has continued to hold out the prospect of a stronger relationship with Russia, which was a cornerstone of his foreign policy platform as a presidential candidate. He took to 杭州桑拿会所 days after the Syria strikes to say that “things will work out fine” between the U.S. and Russia and “everyone will come to their senses.”
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The shifts in the Trump administration’s posture came amid a steady swirl of controversy surrounding possible ties between the president’s associates and Russia during last year’s election. The FBI and congressional committees are investigating whether Trump’s campaign co-ordinated with Russia as it meddled in the election.
Putin, who met earlier Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, denied that Moscow ever interferes in other countries’ elections. He said accusations of Russian meddling aimed at helping Trump in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton were “simply rumours” being used as part of a political fight in Washington.
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Trump has vigorously denied any nefarious ties to Moscow, calling the Russian investigations a “hoax.”
Trump and Putin have spoken twice since the U.S. president took office in January, including last month following an attack in St. Petersburg, Russia. The attack occurred days before the U.S. missile strike in Syria.