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Putin and Trump have ‘positive’ call, want to cooperate in Syria: Kremlin

There was no mention in statement about possibility of Trump easing sanctions on Moscow imposed over Ukraine conflict
For Putin, an easing of Western sanctions would be a major coup ahead of next year's presidential election (AFP/file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump said in a "positive" phone call on Saturday they favoured their two countries cooperating in Syria to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group, the Kremlin said in a statement.

In an eagerly awaited phone call, the first since Trump's inauguration, the two men stressed the importance of restoring economic ties between the two countries and of stabilising relations "as equals," the Kremlin said.

The "priority" in their talks was the fight against international terrorism.

"The presidents said they were in favour of putting in place real coordination of Russian and American actions to destroy IS and the other terrorist groupings in Syria," the statement said.

Trump's White House hailed the call with Putin as a "significant start" to better ties between Washington and Moscow, whose relations have plunged to lows not seen since the Cold War.

During the hour-long conversation, which the White House billed as a "congratulatory call" from Putin, the pair discussed cooperation against IS.

"The positive call was a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair," a White House statement read. 

"Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today's call the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern."

US-Russia relations had hit a post-Cold War low under former President Barack Obama and Trump has made clear he wants a rapprochement with Moscow if he can get along with Putin.

"Both sides demonstrated a mood for active, joint work on stabilising and developing Russian-American cooperation," the Kremlin said, adding that Putin and Trump had agreed to work on finding a possible time and place for a meeting.

There was no mention in the statement that the possibility of Trump easing sanctions on Moscow imposed over the Ukraine conflict had been mentioned, a subject widely expected to be raised.

The Kremlin said Trump and Putin had agreed to establish "partner-like cooperation" when it came to global issues such as Ukraine, Iran's nuclear programme, tensions on the Korean peninsula and the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Trump's stance on Russia has been under intense scrutiny from critics who say he was elected with help from Russian intelligence, an allegation he denies. His detractors have also accused him of being too eager to make an ally of Putin.

For Putin, an easing of Western sanctions would be a major coup ahead of next year's presidential election as it would help the economy recover.

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