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'On-The-Fly': Joint US-Russian Statement on Syria Takes Months of Preparation

© REUTERS / Jorge SilvaU.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang (R) looks on, during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang (R) looks on, during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017 - Sputnik International
A US State Department official has commented on the recent ‘on-the-fly’ greeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump amid the APEC summit, suggesting that a joint US-Russian statement on Syria was preceded by months of painstakingly reciprocal diplomatic work.

Following a brief meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump on the sidelines of the APEC Summit, the US President called for good relations with Russia, saying that a number of international issues could be solved with the assistance of Moscow.

Moreover, The US President Donald Trump said he had "good" talks on Syria with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and stressed the need for good relations with Moscow to resolve Ukrainian and North Korean crises.

Meantime, a senior US State Department official has explained that a recent joint statement on Syria was a result of a reciprocal time-consuming diplomatic effort, adding that both Russia and the US have confirmed the willingness to cooperate if their interests converge.

"This statement really builds on months of… intense discussions with the Russians… I would describe these discussions as quite intense, difficult but also professional and ultimately constructive," a senior US State Department official told journalists. "Despite our many differences with Russia our two countries are capable of working together on difficult problems where interests converge," a senior official told journalists.

In this photo provided by German government U.S. President Donald Trump, center, talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, before the first working session of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany. - Sputnik International
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The official has also stressed that both countries were committed to the territorial integrity of Syria, pointing out the importance of the negotiations in Astana and in Geneva.

The purpose of the talks in Astana is "establishing de-escalation areas, and Astana "should remain a focus for that purpose — the de-escalation areas. The political discussions have to remain in Geneva through the Geneva process," the official told journalists. "De-escalation zones… are designed to reduce violence and create conditions for Syrians to return to their homes… They're not aimed at partitioning Syria or dividing Syria into spheres of influence," the official added.

The US State Department official has also commented on a US, Russia and Jordan's memorandum of principles.

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"The memorandum… reflects the trilateral commitment that existing governance… in opposition-held areas in the southwest will be maintained during this transitional phase. In other words, the opposition is not surrendering territory to the regime," the official told journalists.

The official added that "Russia have agreed to work with the Syrian regime to remove Iranian-backed forces… from opposition-held territory" as well as the borders of the Golan [Heights] and Jordan.

​On Saturday, Trump and Putin had a brief on-the-go meeting on the second day of the APEC summit in Vietnam during which they approved a joint statement on Syria. The paper was prepared by experts from the two countries and agreed on by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US State Secretary Rex Tillerson.

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