Trump, Putin Discuss Defeating ISIS in 'Positive' First Phone Call

Trump and Putin agreed to partner on global issues including the Israeli-Arab conflict; neither Kremlin or White House statement say whether the two discussed Western sanctions on Moscow.

President Donald Trump, joined in the Oval Office by advisers and Vice President Mike Pence, speaks by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, January 28, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a "positive" phone call on Saturday they favored their two countries cooperating in Syria to defeat Islamic State, the Kremlin and the White House said in statements. 

In an eagerly awaited phone call, the first since Trump's inauguration, the two men stressed the importance of restoring economic ties between the two countries and of stabilizing relations, the Kremlin said. 

The White House said in a statement that the call was a "significant start" to improving the relationship between the two countries that "is in need of repair."

"Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today's call the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern," the White House said.

U.S.-Russia relations had hit a post-Cold War low under Barack Obama and Trump has made clear he wants a rapprochement with Moscow if he can get along with Putin. 

"Both sides demonstrated a mood for active, joint work on stabilizing and developing Russian-American cooperation," the Kremlin said in a statement, saying Putin and Trump had agreed to work on finding a possible time and place for a meeting. 

There was no mention in the statement that the possibility of Trump easing sanctions on Moscow imposed over the Ukraine conflict had been mentioned, a subject widely expected to be raised. 

The Kremlin said Trump and Putin had agreed to establish "partner-like cooperation" when it came to global issues such as Ukraine, Iran's nuclear program, tensions on the Korean peninsula and the Israeli-Arab conflict. 

Trump's stance on Russia has been under intense scrutiny from critics who say he was elected with help from Russian intelligence, an allegation he denies. His detractors have also accused him of being too eager to make an ally of Putin. 

For Putin, an easing of Western sanctions would be a major coup ahead of next year's presidential election as it would help the economy recover.