Obama, Putin agree militaries to hold talks to avert conflicts in Syria

2015-09-29 08:28
US President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin leave after posing for a photo ahead of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

US President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin leave after posing for a photo ahead of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

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New York - US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Monday to direct their militaries to hold talks to avoid conflict over potential operations in Syria, a US official said.

The two men also agreed to explore options for a political solution in Syria, but disagreed on the future role of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Their roughly 90-minute talk covered Ukraine and Syria, with both topics getting equal time, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Obama reiterated Washington's long-held position that Assad must go and that there was no path to stability in the war-ravaged country with him in power.

Political talks would continue between the US and Russian foreign ministers, and the Pentagon would arrange the military-to-military talks, the official said.

Washington has been questioning Putin's intentions in Syria, Russia's long-time ally, after Russia sent tanks and warplanes there in the last month. Washington has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria for about a year.

The official said that by the end of the meeting Putin's intentions were clear: defeating ISIS militants and backing Assad.

"We have clarity on their objectives. Their objectives are to go after ISIS and to support the government," the official said.

On Ukraine, Obama reiterated US support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country and said the United States saw opportunities for progress on the so-called Minsk peace agreements.

But he expressed concern about implementation of the pact, including plans by separatists to hold "illegal" local elections.

Read more on:    un  |  bashar assad  |  us  |  russia  |  syria  |  syria conflict

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