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Putin: Talks with Obama ‘sincere’ but ties still strained
September 29, 2015, 1:42 am

Obama's and Putin's speeches at the UNGA on Monday highlighted the stark differences in outlook between Moscow and Washington [Xinhua]

Obama’s and Putin’s speeches at the UNGA on Monday highlighted the stark differences in outlook between Moscow and Washington [Xinhua]

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin met to discuss the Syria and Ukraine crises, just hours after both outlined contrasting, often clashing visions of conflict resolution and how to defeat Islamist terrorism during their UN General Assembly speeches Monday.

Their meeting on Monday evening was their first in two years. The two leaders shook hands in front of journalists and then met in a closed session for talks.

Although scheduled for just under an hour, the meeting ran about 30 minutes longer in what Putin later told Russian media was constructive and sincere.

“We have many things to do [and] there is opportunity to work on (resolving) joint problems together,” Putin told reporters after the meeting.

However, he acknowledged that ties between the two powers were strained.

A White House official quoted by NPR said the talks were productive and that the 90 minutes were divided between talks about Syria and the Ukraine. The unnamed officials said the two leaders clarified their positions and worked through a number of issues.

Moscow and Washington have been at odds, often sparring, since the civil war began in Syria in 2011 and the Ukraine crisis escalated into violence in the late winter of 2014.

Their polar opinions were highlighted on Monday when both leaders gave starkly contrasting outlooks of how to resolve global crises, including defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS).

During his UNGA address, Obama called Syrian President Bashar Al Assad a tyrant.

Assad “reacted to peaceful protests by escalating repression and killing that, in turn, created the environment for the current strife,” Obama said.

Assad “cannot simply pacify the broad majority of a population who have been brutalized by chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing”.

However, Obama said he was willing to work with Russia and Iran to resolve the Syrian crisis, marking a possible shift in recent weeks.

For his part, Putin said that “It is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces who are violently fighting terrorism face to face”.

He called on world powers to acknowledge that it is Assad’s forces and the Kurdish militias who are “truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations” in Syria.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies