Putin Calls Trump, Netanyahu to Discuss Syria After Surprise Assad Meeting

Half-hour call Israeli PM deals with Iran's attempts to gain a foothold in Syria, Israeli source says

Putin and Assad with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, November 20, 2017.
Putin and Assad with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, November 20, 2017. Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the civil war in Syria on Tuesday, with Putin stressing the importance of finding a political solution after meeting with Syria's president, according to the Kremlin.

Putin on Tuesday also held phone calls with a number of Middle East leaders, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi.

He briefed them on a visit to Russia by Syrian President Bashar Assad and about Moscow-backed peace efforts, such as planned Russian-Iranian-Turkey summit and a peace congress on Syria.

The half-hour conversation with Netanyahu dealt with Iran's attempts to gain a foothold in Syria and Israel's opposition to such moves, according to a source in Netanyahu's office. The Israeli leader stressed his country's security concerns, the source said.

The Kremlin says Putin and Netanyahu discussed specifics related to a de-escalation zone in Syria's south, near the border with Jordan. It says they expressed a shared interest in expanding mutually beneficial cooperation, including contacts between special services.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani - whose countries back opposing sides in the Syria conflict - will travel to Russia for a meeting with Putin aimed at advancing the Syrian peace process.

Following the conversation between Putin and Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Syria and Ukraine in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin embraces his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad during a meeting in Sochi on November 20, 2017
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP

Trump and Putin spoke by telephone for about an hour, covering topics including Syria, Ukraine, Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan, a White House official said earlier.

Their conversation came after Putin met Assad for three hours of talks on Monday, in preparation for a push by Moscow to end Syria's conflict now that Islamic State has been driven out of its self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

According to Kremlin, Putin told Trump that the "Syrian leader confirmed adherence to the political process, to run a constitutional reform and president and parliament elections".

"The message was sent of the necessity to keep the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria and to reach a political settlement based on principals to be worked out in a full-scale negotiation process in Syria," the Kremlin said.

Putin stressed the importance to Trump of what he called "coordinating of efforts between the special services of both countries".

The two leaders also discussed North Korea, "stressing the expediency of finding the ways of solution by the diplomatic means."