Putin at Trump Summit: U.S., Russia Should ‘Act Proactively’ in Syria

Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated at their joint press conference on Monday that Syria was discussed in detail at their Helsinki summit meeting.

Both were optimistic that cooperation between the United States and Russia could help rebuild the war-torn country and ease the plight of its civilians.

Putin suggested Syria could present “the first showcase example” of the U.S. and Russia working together more closely on global crises such as terrorism and refugees.

“Russia and the United States apparently can act proactively and take considerable leadership on this issue, and organize the interaction to overcome a humanitarian crisis and help Syrian refugees to go back to their homes,” he said.

Putin cited cooperation between U.S. and Russian military forces in Syria to “avoid dangerous incidents and unintentional collisions in the air and on the ground” and “also crushing terrorists in the southwest of Syria” as models for joint action going forward.

Putin was referring to the defeat of the Islamic State in the latter example, although Russia’s allies in Syria are fond of portraying all resistance to the regime of President Bashar Assad as “terrorists” who must be crushed, and frequently accuse the United States of tolerating or covertly supporting ISIS as a weapon against Assad. The Russians themselves have occasionally leveled such allegations.

“The south of Syria should be brought to the full compliance with the treaty of 1974, about the separation of forces of Israel and Syria. This will bring peace to Golan Heights, and bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel, and also to provide security of the state of Israel,” Putin said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pleased with this remark, with his office saying he “greatly appreciates the security coordination between Israel and Russia and President Putin’s clear position on the need to implement the 1974 separation agreements between Israel and Syria.”

For his part, President Trump said the crisis in Syria is “complex,” and hoped that cooperation between the U.S. and Russia might “save hundreds of thousands of lives.”

“I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS. We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area,” he added.

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