The first ever meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin ended here on Friday with agreements to arrange a ceasefire in Syria and to establish a designated bilateral channel for discussions on the conflict in Ukraine. The two leaders also addressed allegations of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election in the United States, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters following the encounter on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Efe news reported.

“The President (Trump) pressed Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past,” Washington’s top diplomat said.

In Friday’s talks, Tillerson said, the focus was on “how do we move forward from what may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point” and ensure that no interference take place in the future.

The secretary called the meeting “very constructive” and spoke of a “positive chemistry” between the two leaders.

Though each president brought a large entourage to the summit, the only other participants in the bilateral discussions – which went on for more than two hours – were Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and two interpreters.

The parties reached accord on a de-escalation agreement for southwestern Syria, the US Secretary of State said.

Lavrov, speaking at a separate news conference, said the truce aims to preserve Syrian sovereignty and spur progress toward a political settlement of the country’s 6-year-old civil war, which has left around 400,000 people dead and turned additional hundreds of thousands into refugees.

Washington and Moscow have backed opposing sides in Syria, though there is a degree of US-Russian cooperation against Islamic State

While willing to give the cease-fire a chance, Tillerson said that the US continues to believe that President Bashar Assad has no role in Syria’s political future.

Lavrov said that the two presidents resolved to create a bilateral channel on Ukraine in a bid to relaunch the process that led to the Minsk Accords, which have yet to be fully implemented.

On the question of Russia’s ostensible meddling in the US election, Lavrov said that Moscow’s accusers have yet to present any evidence.

“My feeling is that it’s been confirmed that the presidents … are driven above all by the countries’ national interests and that they understand these interests primarily as looking for mutually beneficial agreements and not trying to act out some confrontation scenarios, not trying to create problems out of nothing,” Lavrov said.

On the eve of his meeting with Putin, Trump made a speech in Warsaw that included criticism of Russia for its “destabilising” activities in eastern Ukraine.

First Published | 8 July 2017 9:42 AM
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