From safe zones to terrorism, Trump talks Syria with Putin | News | DW | 03.05.2017
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From safe zones to terrorism, Trump talks Syria with Putin

Speaking by phone with his Russian counterpart, US President Donald Trump has discussed ways to improve conditions on the ground in Syria. The leaders also agreed to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Hailed as a "very good call" by the White House, Tuesday's discussion marked the first time President Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin had spoken by telephone since the US missile strikes on a Syrian airbase suspected of being the launch pad for a chemical weapons attack that left at least 74 civilians dead.

The missile strikes in early April raised tensions between Syria's key ally, Russia, and the US, which accused the Syrian government of orchestrating the assault in Idlib province.

The White House said the phone call included discussion of safe zones "to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons."

During his election campaign, Trump had called for the establishment of safe zones - areas in which Syrian refugees fleeing conflict could find refuge - in a bid to keep them out of the US and other Western nations.

The US president told Putin he would send a senior official to attend the Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana, set to begin on Wednesday. The talks have served as the basis for an elusive ceasefire.

Both leaders also tentatively agreed on their first face-to-face encounter, to take place at the G20 summit in Hamburg in July.

'Future coordination'

While the Kremlin's statement did not touch on safe zones, it emphasized the "future coordination of Russian and US actions to fight international terrorism in the context of the Syrian crisis."

"President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence," the White House said in a statement.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and half the population displaced in Syria since the conflict erupted six years ago.

In 2011, government forces launched a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters calling for the release of political prisoners and for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Since then, it has transformed into a multifaceted conflict involving conventional forces, rebel groups, terrorist organizations, regional actors and global powers, including Turkey, Iran and the so-called "Islamic State" militant group.

ls/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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