Trump, Putin ‘seek Syria ceasefire’ in ‘first conversation’

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has spoken by phone to Donald Trump in their first known conversation since the US president ordered missile strikes on a Syrian air base.

Tensions between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump appeared to be easing as the two leaders expressed desire for a ceasefire in Syria.

The two leaders discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria on Tuesday during a phone call, their first known conversation since Trump ordered missile strikes on a Syrian air base last month, a move that outraged Moscow

Putin and Trump signaled improving prospects for cooperation in the war-torn country in what the White House called a “very good” phone discussion. 

A White House statement said the conversation included a focus on setting up safe zones in Syria. 

“President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence,” the White House said.

“The conversation was a very good one, and included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons.”

READ MORE: What would safe zones mean for the Syrian conflict?

The Kremlin characterised the call as “business-like” and “constructive.” It made no mention of safe zones.

Tuesday’s phone call came just hours before the start of a new round talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, aimed at finding a solution to Syria’s war. 

According to Russian-state media, plans for at least four “de-escalation zones” were being considered in Astana. Russia has not officially released a proposal regarding the zones, but Russian media said the areas would be patrolled by forces from Russia, Iran and Turkey. 

Since taking office, Trump has raised the prospect of safe zones in Syria with world leaders.

OPINION: Trump’s ‘real estate’ approach to safe zones in Syria

The zones would be aimed at protecting civilians and dissuading Syrian refugees from trying to come to the United States, one of Trump’s goals. But military leaders have warned that significant resources would be required to safeguard the regions.

The Kremlin said the leaders also agreed to try to set up their first in-person meeting in July, on the sidelines of an international summit in Germany. 

The two leaders also discussed ways to reduce tensions with North Korea.