G-20: Obama and Putin agree political transition, ceasefire needed in Syria - US official

US President Barack Obama (left) talks to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin (right) during a break of the G20 summit working session in Antalya, Turkey on Sunday.
US President Barack Obama (left) talks to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin (right) during a break of the G20 summit working session in Antalya, Turkey on Sunday.PHOTO: EPA

BELEK, Turkey (REUTERS) - US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the need for a Syria-led political transition, including UN-mediated talks, when they spoke at the G-20 summit on Sunday, a White House official said.

The Cold War superpower foes have been at odds over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Moscow supports and Washington wants gone, as well as the conflict in Ukraine.

In a 35 minute discussion on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G-20) meeting in Turkey, Mr Obama and Mr Putin discussed efforts to find a solution to the conflict, which had been made more pressing by the attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, the US official said.

 

"President Obama and President Putin agreed on the need for a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, which would be proceeded by UN-mediated negotiations between the Syrian opposition and regime as well a ceasefire," the official said.

Mr Obama welcomed efforts by all countries in confronting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), noting the importance of Russia's military efforts in Syria focusing on the group, the official said.

Following the talks, Russian media quoted a top Kremlin adviser as saying the two countries have similar approach towards fighting terrorism but differ on tactics.

"Strategic objectives relating to the fight against the Islamic State are, in principle, very similar (between Russia and the US), but there are differences on the tactics side," Mr Yuri Ushakov was quoted as saying.

Russia stands accused of targeting groups other than ISIS in air strikes in Syria, including fighters backed by the United States and its allies.

The White House official said Mr Obama also reiterated his support for the implementation of the Minsk agreement, a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine agreed by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.