No deal on Syria as Obama and Putin meet

Hangzhou, China (CNN)- US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met Monday as talks between their governments on ending violence in Syria ended without an agreement.

The two leaders conversed on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit here for ninety minutes, a senior US official said, and worked to clarify gaps in negotiations over on the Syrian crisis. The pair also discussed Ukraine and Russia’s cyber intrusions, the official said.

The exchange came after talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov failed to result in a Syria ceasefire agreement. They had been working to negotiate a plan that would have boosted military cooperation between the two nations in an effort to better target terrorists and prevent civilian deaths.

Negotiators failed to work though differences, and the talks have ended for now. Following Obama’s meeting with Putin, an official said the leaders indicated a desire for Kerry and Lavrov to reconvene deliberations in the coming days.

“There are still issues to resolve,” one US official said. Differences between the two sides are technical, another official indicated, suggesting the divide was at a level that Obama and Putin wouldn’t negotiate themselves.

Photos of the session distributed by the Kremlin show the two leaders and aides, including Kerry and US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, seated around a table. The presidents appeared in congenial moods, with one photo showing Putin smiling broadly.

Both Russian and US officials said the meeting — which was held in a conference room at the G20 summit site here — lasted longer than planned, and that leaders spent the bulk of their meeting discussing Syria.

Cautious optimism

On Sunday, cautious optimism prevailed that a deal could be struck between Washington and Moscow, long at odds over policy in Syria. Kerry and Lavrov had been working “around the clock” to come to an agreement, Obama told reporters.

Russian forces have aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to target US-backed opposition fighters that Moscow and Damascus claim are terrorists. The campaign has spurred a humanitarian crisis and caused millions of Syrians to flee for Europe.

The US hopes to align with Russia to identify terrorist targets, including ISIS and the Nusra Front, a group formerly tied to al-Qaeda. Officials hope a ceasefire will help advance talks on a political transition that would lead to the resignation of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Any deal to end widespread suffering in Syria was likely to be met with doubt after past settlements, including a ceasefire agreed to in February, failed — a fact Obama acknowledged on Sunday.

Source: CNN

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