Trump, Putin Agree to Work Together on Brokering Cease-Fire in Syria
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - US President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia agreed on Tuesday to work together to broker a cease-fire in Syria, as they sought to move past weeks of tension after a chemical attack on Syrian civilians and a retaliatory US cruise missile strike.
In their first telephone conversation since the rupture in relations last month, Trump agreed to send a representative to Russian-sponsored cease-fire talks starting Wednesday in Astana, Kazakhstan, and the two leaders assigned their top diplomats to coordinate efforts. They also discussed meeting in Germany in July, The New York Times reported.
But the White House and Kremlin offered differing accounts of how far the two presidents had gone in exploring the idea of establishing safe zones in Syria to protect civilians suffering under a relentless civil war, a concept Trump has advocated since last year’s campaign but so far made no effort to follow through on.
The White House statement said the talk had “included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons.”
The Kremlin made no mention of safe zones in its own statement after the phone call, and Putin’s spokesman played down the idea. “The subject was mentioned but was not discussed in detail,” he told the state-run Tass news agency.
Still, both sides offered positive assessments of the conversation, with the White House characterizing it as “a very good one” and the Kremlin calling it “businesslike and constructive.” Neither side mentioned the dispute over the chemical attack and cruise missile strike.
“President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence,” the White House statement said.
While Trump came into office praising Putin and vowing to improve Russian-US relations, the two countries found themselves at odds last month after the chemical attack killed more than 80 civilians and US forces responded with a missile strike on the Syrian air base reportedly used to launch the nerve agent assault.
The Trump administration accused Russia of complicity or incompetence, since it had troops stationed at the same Syrian base. The Kremlin denied that the government of President Bashar Assad of Syria was responsible for the chemical attack and accused the United States of violating international law. Russia also vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the chemical weapons attack.
Trump’s effort to ease tensions coincided with a visit to Russia by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who met with Putin in the southern resort city of Sochi.
Asked about Syria at the news conference with the German chancellor, Putin said the two sides had discussed settling the conflict there. He emphasized that cooperation with Washington was critical.
“Certainly, without the participation of such a party as the United States, it is also impossible to solve these problems effectively,” Putin said. “So we are and will continue to be in contact with our American partners, and I hope that we will attain understanding there regarding joint steps in this very important and sensitive area of international relations today.”