U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Saturday at the Asia Pacific (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam, both agreed on steps to be taken to resolve the crisis in Syria.
President Trump said he had several brief conversations with Putin, on the sidelines of the summit.
He said the conversations mainly concerned Syria.
The two Presidents later issued a joint statement, reiterating their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria, as well as their commitment to a political solution to that country’s long-running civil war.
The statement reads in part:
“President Trump and President Putin today, meeting on the margins of the APEC conference in Da Nang, Vietnam, confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria. They expressed their satisfaction with successful U.S.-Russia enhanced de-confliction efforts between U.S. and Russian military professionals that have dramatically accelerated ISIS’s losses on the battlefield in recent months.
“The Presidents agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces engaged in the fight against ISIS. They confirmed these efforts will be continued until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.
“The Presidents agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. They confirmed that the ultimate political solution to the conflict must be forged through the Geneva process pursuant to UNSCR 2254. They also took note of President Asad’s recent commitment to the Geneva process and constitutional reform and elections as called for under UNSCR 2254”.
Trump also told reporters that he asked Putin once again about Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election last year, and that Putin once again denied any such involvement.
With an ongoing investigation of alleged Russia’s role in the election which eventually brought Trump in as President, the White House is sensitive about any formal parley with Putin.
On his way to Asia, Trump told reporters that he thought a meeting with the Russian president was expected. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said scheduling conflicts made such a meeting impossible.
Trump complained that attention to Russia’s alleged meddling had created what he called an “artificial barrier” to doing business with Putin.
“Having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing, especially as it relates to North Korea,” Trump told reporters accompanying him on Air Force One. “It would take a lot of danger out of this world. It’s a dangerous time – this isn’t small stuff.”
Trump said he and Putin did not have time to discuss North Korea during their brief conversations this weekend.