Russia, US agree to Syria ceasefire amid Putin-Trump meeting

Both Putin and Trump wanted to extend their first meeting beyond the 140 minutes, US officials have said on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany [PPIO]

It was meant to last for half an hour but the first face-to-face meaning between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump last for more than two hours.

In a much anticipated meeting which US media had speculated would be a charged, high-stakes face-to-face, the two leaders exchanged pleasantries as if they were two old friends trying to work out a difference between them.

US officials said later that the two presidents appeared to have connected “fairly quickly” and could have continued for hours in engagement and exchange.

“It’s an honor to meet you,” Trump told Putin as they began their 140-minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, according to Russian officials.

Bi-partisan voices in Washington had demanded that Trump raise the issue of alleged Russian tampering in the 2016 US elections with his counterpart.

According to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a press briefing following the meeting with Putin, Trump did raise the issue in a “robust” way.

Putin vehemently denied any Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, according to Tillerson.

For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – who also attended the meeting of the two presidents – said the issue of cyber security was prominent during the talks.

“The presidents agreed that this area is becoming more and more risky, if you like, threats are emerging, like the terror threat, threats in other areas of organized crime, as well as threats to the normal way of functioning of societies,” Lavrov told journalists in a separate press briefing according to Russian media reports.

Both Lavrov and Tillerson highlighted the success of the talks, with the latter saying that both countries had different approaches to resolving the same issues, but that they were in agreement about their common goals.

But the bulk of the talks between Putin and Trump focused on Syria, a highly contentious issue since Washington fired cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase after accusing the government of using chemical weapons against civilians two months ago.

The Russians denied that this happened but Washington last week warned that Syrian government forces were about to launch another such attack.

Half-way through the Putin-Trump meeting, the Associated Press announced that it had been informed by Washington officials that Russia and the US had agreed to a ceasefire in southwest Syria beginning noon on July 9.

Later news reports indicated that Jordan would join Russia and the United States in implementing the ceasefire. Lavrov later revealed that the ceasefire implementation would be ensured by all three countries, but that Russian military police would be tasked – in coordination with Jordan and the US – with security.

Tillerson hailed the ceasefire announcement as an indication that both Russia and the United States are capable of working together to deescalate the conflict in Syria.

However, he said that there would be no room in the long-term for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to play a role in the political transition process after hostilities come to an end.

On Ukraine, Tillerson said that the US agreed to a Russian request to appoint an American special envoy on the Ukraine crisis.

Lavrov said that Putin and Trump had agreed to establish a channel of communication on Ukraine and that the steps forward to resolve the crisis there would be based on the Minsk agreements signed two years ago.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies