Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Monday he had grounds to believe Russia and the United States could strike a long-awaited deal on Syria within days, allowing them to intensify the fight against Islamist militants in the country.
Putin made his comments during a news conference at the close of the G20 summit in China where he held talks with U.S. President Barack Obama. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met on the event’s sidelines and discussed Syria, but were unable to reach an agreement.
Obama says the United States and Russia are working to try to finalize a ceasefire in Syria that would allow more deliveries of humanitarian aid. The two countries are also thought to be trying to reach a deal on some form of limited military cooperation.
Obama and Putin spent about 90 minutes in a “constructive” meeting about getting humanitarian aid into the country, reducing violence, and cooperating on combating militant groups, the official told reporters.
In talks earlier on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were unable to come to terms on a ceasefire for the second time in two weeks, with U.S. officials stressing they would walk away if a near-term pact could not be reached.
Obama and Putin did not get into the finer details of a deal, but made progress to clarify “the remaining gaps” and directed Kerry and Lavrov to meet as early as this week to keep working on a deal, the official told reporters.
“If an agreement can be reached, we want to do so urgently, because of the humanitarian situation. However, we must ensure that it is an effective agreement,” the official said.
“If we cannot get the type of agreement we want, we will walk away from that effort.”
Putin said it was premature to give any details about the terms of a potential agreement, but said he felt a deal was really close.
“I’m really hoping that this agreement can be reached and I have grounds to believe it could happen in the next few days,” said Putin.
“If it does, then we can say that our joint work with the United States in fighting terrorist organizations, including in Syria, will be significantly improved and intensified.”
Russia has insisted that it cannot agree to a deal unless opposition fighters, backed by the United States and Middle East allies, are separated from al-Qaeda linked militants they overlap with in some areas.
It is worth mentioning that US and Russia declared on Sunday that they are not being able to reach a ceasefire agreement due to huge differences
“We’re not there yet,” Obama told reporters after a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
“We have grave differences with the Russians in terms of both the parties we support but also the process that is required to bring about peace in Syria,” he said.
“If we do not get some buy-in from the Russians on reducing the violence and easing the humanitarian crisis, then it’s difficult to see how we get to the next phase,” Obama said.