Trump, Putin discuss Syria ceasefire in first talks since US air strikes

Trump, Putin discuss Syria ceasefire in first talks since US air strikes
PHOTO: Reuters

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW - US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on Tuesday for the first time since US air strikes in Syria on April 4 strained US-Russian relations and said they would seek a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war.

Statements from both the White House and the Kremlin suggested the two leaders had a productive conversation that included North Korea and fighting Islamist militants throughout the Middle East.

Trump ordered air strikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that the United States blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, prompting protests from Assad ally Russia, which blamed Syrian rebels for the use of outlawed nerve gas.

The White House said the two leaders agreed that "all parties must do all they can to end the violence" in Syria.

"The conversation was a very good one, and included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons," a White House statement said.

It said Washington would send a representative to Syrian ceasefire talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday and Thursday.

The State Department said acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones will attend the Astana talks as an observer.

The Kremlin said Putin and Trump agreed to step up dialogue on finding ways to strengthen a ceasefire and give it stability.

"The aim is to create the conditions for the launch for a real resolution process in Syria. This means that the Russian foreign minister and US secretary of state will effectively inform the leaders about progress in this direction."

The White House statement said Trump and Putin also "spoke about how best to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea."

With North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs posing a major global challenge, the two leaders also discussed how to go about resolving a crisis that has raised tensions throughout the Asia-Pacific.

Trump told Reuters in an interview last week that a "major, major conflict" was possible with North Korea, amping up pressure on Pyongyang to stand down and for China to rein in the north.

"The dangerous situation on the Korean peninsula was discussed in detail. Vladimir Putin called for restraint and for the level of tension to be reduced," the Kremlin said.

The two leaders also discussed having a their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg July 7-8, the Kremlin said.

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