Sanctions on Russia to remain until Minsk ceasefire for Ukraine is implemented, Obama tells Putin

The leaders’ discussion came hours after US and Russian diplomats failed to agree on a deal to provide humanitarian aid to thousands of civilians in Syria

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2016, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 11:21am

US President Barack Obama said on Monday that he made clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that until the Minsk ceasefire for Ukraine was implemented, sanctions on Russia would remain.

Obama met Putin for 90 minutes on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hangzhou.

Despite the tough rhetoric, Obama said the US and Russia had not given up on negotiations that could stem the bloodshed in Syria.

Significant sticking points remain in the negotiations over a creation of an unlikely US-Russian military partnership focusing firepower on “common enemies” in Syria, Obama said. He acknowledged that a flurry of diplomacy and the meeting with Putin did not yield a breakthrough.

“Given the gaps of trust that exist, that’s a tough negotiation,” Obama told a press conference closing the Group of 20 summit. “We haven’t yet closed the gaps.”

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The leaders’ discussion came hours after top US and Russian diplomats failed to seal a deal aimed at providing access to humanitarian aid for thousands of civilians in the war-torn country.

The plan would forge an unlikely US-Russian military partnership against extremist groups operating in Syria.

Obama and Putin clarified the remaining gaps in the talks, which largely involve how the deal would be implemented, the official said.

The official added that the two leaders directed their teams to meet again quickly, possibly as soon as later this week.

Russian media also reported the talks.

“The meeting was longer than expected,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by the RIA news agency.

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Asked about the mood at the meeting, Peskov said, “It went well. Work will continue.”

The US official said Obama and Putin discussed core issues on both the Syria and Ukraine crises.

But the two nations appeared to have failed to reach a deal for a ceasefire in Syria despite a growing international outcry about the humanitarian disaster in the country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t bridge differences with Russia over a possible ceasefire deal with Syria after another hour-long meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday.

Later in the day, Kerry was scheduled to leave Hangzhou, where he had joined Obama along with leaders of Russia and other members of the G20, leaving open the question of when a deal might be reached.

Differences remain after Russian negotiators walked back on parts of the deal that the US thought had been agreed to earlier, according to the State Department official.

The attempt to forge a ceasefire is part of a broad effort to halt the fighting and create space for talks on a political transition in Syria, after a February ceasefire collapsed. Backed by Russian warplanes, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have waged an air and ground campaign that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, sparked a humanitarian crisis and forced millions of Syrians to seek refuge in Europe.