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Putin, Trump make most progress in talks on Syria, says Russian expert

Judging from the statements Putin made at the final press conference, there are plans to take joint steps to provide assistance to refugees, the expert noted

MOSCOW, July 17. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump made the most progress in talks on Syria at their Helsinki meeting, Director of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Garbuzov said at a roundtable following the Russia-US summit.

"Issues discussed included Ukraine, Syria and sanctions, and the parties made the most progress in paving the way for cooperation in resolving the Syria issue," he said. "When they met in Hamburg last time [on the sidelines of the G20 summit - TASS], an agreement was reached on joint activities in the [Syrian] de-escalation zones. And now, judging from the statements Putin made at the final press conference, there are plans to take joint steps to provide assistance to refugees," the expert noted.

He pointed out that the two presidents avoided the question of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s political future at the press conference. "This question has not taken center stage yet, but I think it will rise later," Garbuzov said.

According to him, further developments in this direction depend on the parties’ capacity to compromise. "It was announced that the militaries had succeeded in building dialogue so military cooperation will be easier to perceive," the expert noted.

Risk of torpedoing

Garbuzov went on to say that it was too early to make final conclusions about the outcome of the talks between Putin and Trump. "It will be possible to make far-reaching conclusions concerning the meeting only when we see that some working groups are set up, plans to resolve issues are made and all the suspended mechanisms are restored," he pointed out.

However, disagreements among the US political elite may hinder the implementation of bilateral agreements. "Significant forces in the US political elite, first and foremost, the Democrats, were against the meeting. This may torpedo the hope that normal people place on this initial meeting," the Russian expert said.

Besides, in his words, any gestures towards Russia may be considered as a proof of collusion between Trump and Moscow, as well as of Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election. "It will take long to find a way out of this situation. If both parties take this path, it will take at least eighteen months to two years to pinpoint the most pressing issues and restore dialogue. It is too early to speak about fully restoring economic ties and relations in the arms control field," Garbuzov concluded.

Putin-Trump meeting

The first full-fledged talks between the presidents of Russia and the United States took place in Finland’s capital of Helsinki on Monday. The one-on-one meeting between Putin and Trump lasted more than two hours, later delegation members joined the presidents for a working lunch. The Russian delegation was composed of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov. The US delegation included Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. The expanded session also took about two hours.

Putin and Trump first held talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. In November 2017, the Russian and US heads of state held a brief meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam, adopting a joint statement on Syria. In addition, the two leaders have also held several telephone conversations.

Both presidents said after the Helsinki summit that a big step forward had been taken.