Putin: Moscow and Washington could strike Syria deal within days

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, September 5, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERS

HANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Monday he had grounds to believe Russia and the United States could strike a long-awaited deal on Syria within days, allowing them to intensify the fight against Islamist militants in the country.

Putin made his comments during a news conference at the close of the G20 summit in China where he held talks with U.S. President Barack Obama. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met on the event’s sidelines and discussed Syria, but were unable to reach an agreement.

Obama says the United States and Russia are working to try to finalize a ceasefire in Syria that would allow more deliveries of humanitarian aid. The two countries are also thought to be trying to reach a deal on some form of limited military cooperation.

Putin said it was premature to give any details about the terms of a potential agreement, but said he felt a deal was really close.

“I’m really hoping that this agreement can be reached and I have grounds to believe it could happen in the next few days,” said Putin.

“If it does, then we can say that our joint work with the United States in fighting terrorist organizations, including in Syria, will be significantly improved and intensified.”

Russia has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the United States has worked with what it says are moderate opposition forces fighting against him. Moscow has sometimes questioned whether U.S.-backed rebels really are moderate.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Christian Lowe/Andrew Osborn; Editing by Jack Stubbs