World News

Putin urges political solution in Syria, in calls to Trump, Mideast leaders

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the civil war in Syria on Tuesday, with Putin stressing the importance of finding a political solution after meeting with Syria’s president, according to the Kremlin.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

Putin on Tuesday also held phone calls with a number of Middle East leaders, among them as Saudi King Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

He briefed them on a visit to Russia by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and about Moscow-backed peace efforts, such as planned Russian-Iranian-Turkey summit and a peace congress on Syria.

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 a source in Netanyahu’s office. The Israeli leader stressed his country’s security concerns, the source said.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani - whose countries back opposing sides in the Syria conflict - will travel to Russia for a meeting with Putin aimed at advancing the Syrian peace process.

Following the conversation between Putin and Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Syria and Ukraine in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Trump and Putin spoke by telephone for about an hour, covering topics including Syria, Ukraine, Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan, a White House official said earlier.

Their conversation came after Putin met Assad for three hours of talks on Monday, in preparation for a push by Moscow to end Syria’s conflict now that Islamic State has been driven out of its self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

According to Kremlin, Putin told Trump that the “Syrian leader confirmed adherence to the political process, to run a constitutional reform and president and parliament elections”.

“The message was sent of the necessity to keep the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria and to reach a political settlement based on principals to be worked out in a full-scale negotiation process in Syria,” the Kremlin said.

Putin stressed the importance to Trump of what he called “coordinating of efforts between the special services of both countries”.

The two leaders also discussed North Korea, “stressing the expediency of finding the ways of solution by the diplomatic means”.

Writing by Denis Pinchuk, additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, editing by Larry King