Sun, Nov 12, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Trump, Putin agree ‘no military solution’ in Syria

AFP, DA NANG, Vietnam

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and US President Donald Trump talk on the sidelines of the APEC leaders’ summit yesterday in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Photo: AFP

The US and Russia issued a presidential joint statement saying there is “no military solution” to the war in Syria, the Kremlin said yesterday, after their leaders met briefly on the sidelines of a regional summit in Vietnam.

There had been mixed messages for days from both Moscow and the White House on whether US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would hold face-to-face discussions during the APEC summit in Da Nang.

The pair were seen sharing cordial handshakes and brief conversations three times during the summit, but there were no sit-down talks between the two.

In a statement published on its Web site, the Kremlin said the two presidents had made progress on Syria, which has been battered by six years of civil war.

The US and Russia have backed competing factions in the bloody conflict and agreement between them on the next steps toward peace is rare.

“The presidents agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria,” the statement said, adding that the two sides “confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS” — an alternative name for the Islamic State (IS) group.

The statement also added that the two sides had agreed to keep military channels open to avoid potential clashes over Syria and urged the warring sides to participate in UN-led peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland.

The publication of the statement on the Kremlin’s Web site took reporters traveling with Trump by surprise and there was no immediate response from the White House.

Russia has run a major bombing campaign in Syria since 2015 when it stepped in to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s fight against rebels — some of them US-backed — tipping the conflict in his favor.

The Russian military has accused the US of merely “pretending” to fight the IS in Iraq and of hindering the Russian-backed offensive in eastern Syria.

However, the Kremlin said yesterday’s joint statement “expressed satisfaction” with efforts to prevent incidents between their respective forces in Syria.

Trump’s relationship with Moscow has haunted the first year of his presidency, with key former aides under a US investigation for alleged collaboration with the Kremlin.

Putin and Trump last held face-to-face talks at a G20 summit earlier in the year and there was intense speculation over whether they would do so again in Danang.

However, overly amicable talks between Trump and Putin in Vietnam risked being an awkward sell for the White House as it vigorously denies any undue links with the Kremlin.

Earlier in the week Trump had said he was keen to meet Putin, seeking support in confronting North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

The Kremlin also said a meeting was planned for Friday last week.

However, his aides publically cooled expectations before Trump’s arrival at the summit, to the annoyance of Moscow’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov, who slammed White House “pen pushers” for sending out mixed messages.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have plummeted as the US probe has accused Trump’s former campaign aides of secretly meeting Kremlin-connected officials — a charge Russia denies.

Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an associate are under house arrest on charges including conspiracy to launder money, linked to the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into allegations that the campaign colluded with Russia.

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