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Mixed messages on US-Russia vision to end Syria war, as ceasefire extended to southern province

Trump and Putin met for the first time at the G20 summit [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 July, 2017

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President Putin says Russia is enjoying a new period of cooperation with the US under Trump, but the state department still insists Assad must go.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the US appears less rigid regarding Syria under new President Donald Trump, as a ceasefire comes into force in the southern province of Daraa.

Putin who met Trump at the G20 summit in Germany said the two countries have found common ground regarding the future of Syria, where Russian forces are backing President Bashar al-Assad against rebels.

"It seems to me that the US position (on Syria) has become more pragmatic. There is a comprehension that if we combine our efforts, we can achieve a lot," Putin said.

Trump and Putin met for the first time at the G20 summit in Hamburg, where the two leaders appeared to warm to one another.

The pair agreed to enforce a no-fly-zone and ceasefire in Syria's southern province of Daraa, where rebel areas have been subject to a fierce regime bombardment - including napalm.

The ceasefire is due to come into place a midday on Sunday and the de-escalation idea - mwhich is officially in place in many other areas of Syria - has been welcomed by Trump's security adviser HR McMaster.

"Such zones are a priority for the United States, and we're encouraged by the progress made to reach this agreement," he said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there was "very positive chemistry" between the two leaders and that the issue of Syria took up longest part of their meeting.

But earlier Tillerson stuck to the consistent US line on Syria saying there can be no-long term end to the violence in Syria with Bashar al-Assad and his family still in charge.

"How Assad leaves is yet to be determined," Tillerson said. "There will be a transition away from the Assad family."

Russia wants Assad to remain in power but has hinted that Moscow is not "wedded" to the idea of him staying in charge indefinitely.

Moscow has expended huge amounts of money keeping Assad in charge, launching air raids on rebel positions from September 2015 and expanding its presence on the ground through mercenary fighters and special forces.

It has also built up a number of military bases in the country, most significantly in Latakia with an airbase and the expansion of the Tartous port.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in Russia's air war in Syria.

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