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Trump, Putin Discuss Need For Peace In Syria, Ukraine In Phone Call


U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk before a session of the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam, on November 11.

U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed the need to bring peace to Syria and Ukraine among other matters, the White House said.

Trump's hourlong phone call on November 21 with the Russian president came a day after Putin met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Black Sea resort of Sochi and ahead of a summit on November 22 in the same location with Turkey and Iran on the Syrian conflict.

The White House said Trump and Putin discussed the need to revive UN negotiations "to peacefully resolve the Syrian civil war, end the humanitarian crisis, allow displaced Syrians to return home, and ensure the stability of a unified Syria free of malign intervention and terrorist safe havens."

Putin informed Trump of "the main results" of his meeting with Assad, "at which the Syrian leader confirmed his commitment to the political process, [and] conducting constitutional reform and presidential and parliamentary elections," the Kremlin said.

The White House said the two leaders also "affirmed the importance of fighting terrorism together throughout the Middle East and Central Asia" and agreed to look into ways to step up cooperation in the fight against Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups.

The two leaders also discussed ways to implement "a lasting peace in Ukraine," as well as the need to keep up international pressure on North Korea "to halt its nuclear weapon and missile programs," the White House said.

Afterward, Trump said it was a "great call" as he left the White House to spend the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in Florida.

Trump noted the length of the call, and said he and Putin spoke "very strongly about bringing peace to Syria," which he said was "very important."

The conversation came after Trump and Putin spoke informally several times earlier this month when they attended a summit in Vietnam, where they issued a joint statement on November 11 agreeing that a political solution was needed on Syria and that they would continue efforts to fight IS.

Trump at the time called that joint document "extraordinarily important."

The White House said that, during their November 21 phone conversation, "the presidents affirmed their support for the joint statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, issued at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on November 11."

Trump and Putin endorsed "the UN-led Geneva process to peacefully resolve the Syrian civil war," the White House said.

In an apparent flurry of diplomacy on Syria, Putin also spoke with Saudi King Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on November 21, the Kremlin said.

The half-hour conversation with Netanyahu dealt with Iran's attempts to gain a foothold in Syria and Israel's opposition to such moves, according to Netanyahu's office.

UN-sponsored negotiations aimed at fostering a political solution to the conflict are due to resume in Geneva on November 28.

Syrian opposition groups are expected to meet in Saudi Arabia on November 23 in an attempt to create a single representative body for the latest round of talks in Geneva.

According to a Kremlin statement earlier on November 21, Assad was invited to Russia to get him to agree to potential peace initiatives drafted by Russia, Iran, and Turkey.

Russia and Iran have given crucial military and diplomatic backing to Assad's government throughout the war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in 2011.

Turkey supports rebels who want to oust the Syrian president.

Assad and Putin refer to the IS group and most of his other opponents as terrorists.

The war has killed more than 330,000 people, created more than 6 million refugees, and forced some 5 million people to become internally displaced.

Western powers have called for Assad to step down since the war broke out in 2011, and the Syrian president's fate has been a stumbling block in previous peace talks.

The White House statement about the Trump-Putin conversation did not say anything about Assad's future.

It was the second time Assad has traveled to Russia to meet with Putin in the course of the war.

The first was in October 2015, shortly after Russia launched its air and ground campaign in Syria to beef up Assad's forces.

The presidents of Russia, Turkey, and Iran were scheduled to meet in Sochi on November 22 to discuss Syria.

The meeting will focus on reducing violence in Syria and matters related to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the region, officials said.

Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran are sponsoring separate talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, that involve warring sides in the war and focus on battlefield issues, such as the formation of de-escalation zones in key regions of Syria.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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