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Trump, Putin Take Joint Stance on Syria

11 Nov 2017 9:56 am
By Thomas Grove 

MOSCOW--U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin aligned their positions around Syria on Saturday with a joint statement that underscored how close Moscow and Washington's positions have grown around the war-torn country.

"The presidents agreed there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria," Russian news agency Interfax reported the joint statement as saying, after the two leaders met briefly at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Though the statement reiterated Washington and Moscow's broad policies on the country, Syria appears to be one of the few arenas in which Messrs. Putin and Trump, both of whom have advocated better ties between Moscow and Washington, can make a show of cooperation. Mr. Trump is largely limited in expanding ties with Russia as Congress has expanded sanctions against the country for meddling in last year's presidential election.

The U.S. president also has been hemmed in by a special investigation into whether members of his campaign team colluded with Russian officials to win the vote. Mr. Trump has called the investigation a witch hunt.

Messrs. Trump and Putin didn't have a formal meeting during the APEC summit held over the past two days, but Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the agreement had been finalized in talks between the two leaders on the sidelines of the conference.

The two leaders met briefly on Saturday at the APEC plenary session, when Mr. Trump entered the room and walked to Mr. Putin. The two stood shaking hands and spoke briefly before taking their respective seats.

During the customary group picture, Mr. Trump was among the last to arrive and stood in the center of the back row next to Mr. Putin.

Mr. Peskov said the text of the statement had been worked out between U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier in the day.

In the sharpest break with the U.S.'s traditional tone on Syria, Mr. Trump's statement with Mr. Putin noted the adherence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Geneva peace process, including constitutional reform and conditions for free and fair elections.

Unlike the previous U.S. administration, Mr. Trump has said Mr. Assad's departure isn't a precondition for starting peace talks. However, Mr. Trump personally authorized a volley of cruise missiles to strike a Syrian government base in April following a chemical weapons attack earlier this year.

Mr. Tillerson said last month that the reign of Mr. Assad's family is coming to an end, adding "the only issue is how that should be brought about."

Michael C. Bender contributed to this article.

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 11, 2017 04:56 ET (09:56 GMT)

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