US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on Tuesday to work together to end the violence in Syria and combat rising terrorism in West Asia. This was the first phone conversation between the two leaders since the US bombed a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical attack, purportedly carried out by the Bashar al-Assad government.
The White House described the conversation — the third between the two leaders — as “a very good one”, while the Kremlin in Moscow called it “businesslike and constructive”. The two leader agreed, the White House said, “the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence.”
They discussed the creation of “safe, or de-escalation zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and other reasons”. The US also announced it would sending a representatives to cease-fire talks in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The Kremlin said the “emphasis” of the conversation was on “future coordination of Russian and US actions to fight international terrorism in the context of the Syrian crisis”. And they agreed to “bolster the dialogue between the heads of the two nations’ foreign policy agencies in an effort to find ways to stabilize the ceasefire and make it durable and manageable”.
The two leaders went beyond Syria and “discussed at length working together to eradicate terrorism throughout” West Asia, the White House said.
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson later said the conversation, which lasted 30 minutes, “was a very constructive call that the two presidents had. It was a very, very fulsome call, a lot of detailed exchanges. So we’ll see where we go from here.”
An unidentified US official told The Wall Street Journal there was no breakthrough in the conversation and that the Trump administration was not sure if Moscow —Assad’s most powerful backer — was serious about resolving the crisis.
The phone conversation, which came in the aftermath of Trump describing relations between the two countries being at an “all-time low”, was seen as an attempt to resume cooperation, which Trump has repeatedly said he was keen to.
They went on to also discuss the “very dangerous situation” in North Korea. Moscow said Putin called for “restraint and an easing of tensions”, and “it was agreed to organise joint work aimed at achieving diplomatic solutions and a comprehensive settlement of the problem”.