U.S. President Donald Trump said on November 11 that an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Syria would save many lives after the two met at a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, while the Russian leader called the statement "extraordinarily important."
"We agreed very quickly," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the resort city of Danang to Vietnam's capital, Hanoi. "It's going to save tremendous numbers of lives," he said of the agreement announced by the Kremlin in a joint statement on its website.
Separately, Putin told journalists at the end of the summit that the joint statement "is extraordinarily important" and confirms the principles of the antiterrorism fight.
The joint statement said that Trump and Putin had agreed on the sidelines of the APEC summit that a political solution was needed on Syria and that they would continue efforts to fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group.
Russia and the United States agree there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, the joint statement said.
Putin and Trump reaffirmed their commitment to Syria's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and called on all parties to the Syrian conflict to take an active role in the Geneva political process, it said.
Several rounds of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the opposition have so far failed to bring an end to the civil war which killed more than 320,000 people and displaced millions since it broke out in March 2011.
Although the White House had said no official meeting was planned, Trump and Putin also shook hands at a dinner on November 10.
"We spoke intermittently during that roundtable. We seem to have a very good feeling for each other and a good relationship considering we don't know each other well," Trump said, adding that he and Putin had two or three very short verbal exchanges.
The Kremlin said earlier that the statement on Syria was coordinated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson especially for the meeting in Danang.
Trump said Putin had reiterated that he did not meddle in last year's U.S. presidential election, which brought Trump to the White House.
Trump said a good relationship with Russia was important.
"In fact it would be a great thing...because he could really help us in North Korea. We have a big problem with North Korea and China is helping us," Trump said. "If Russia helped us in addition to China that problem would go away a lot faster."
Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping was a good man who "wants to do right," but he wanted Xi to ratchet up more pressure on North Korea.
After emphasizing during last year's U.S. presidential campaign that it would be positive if the United States and Russia could work together on world problems, Trump has had limited contact with Putin since taking office.
Trump publicly sitting down with Putin also brings back to attention the issue of Russian meddling in last year's election, which remains under investigation.
Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been indicted in the probe along with his former deputy, Rick Gates.
Speaking to journalists on the plane on November 11, Trump said Putin told him that he didn't interfere in the U.S. elections.
"He (Putin) said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again," he said.
"You can only ask so many times.... He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election."
In response to Trump’s comments about the Russian meddling in the election, Ben Cardin (Democrat-Maryland), one of the U.S. Senate’s harshest critics of Russia, issued a statement, saying Trump’s “denial of facts is troubling.”
"President Trump believes a former KGB agent over 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. That is outrageous,” Cardin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement on November 11.
Meanwhile, Putin told the journalists in Danang that an alleged link between Manafort and Russia is being fabricated by Trump's opponents as a weapon against Trump. Manafort "has nothing to do with us," Putin said.
Reports that Putin's relatives were involved in contacts with the Trump administration are untrue, Putin said.
Putin also said he had a normal dialogue with Trump, describing the American president as civil, well-educated, and comfortable to deal with.
The Russian leader said a bilateral meeting with Trump did not happen because of scheduling issues on both sides and unspecified protocol issues.
Putin said there was still a need for further U.S.-Russia contacts, both at the level of heads of state and their officials, to discuss issues including security and economic development.