President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a "businesslike and constructive" phone conversation on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming peace conference on Syria, according to a Kremlin statement obtained by Reuters.


The White House confirmed the call later Tuesday, saying the leaders also discussed the recent temporary deal freezing Iran's nuclear weapons program, security at the upcoming Sochi Olympics, and steps to increase trade between the nations.

"President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin today on a range of bilateral and global issues," the White House said in a statement. "They discussed the situation in Syria, including preparations for the Geneva II conference and the ongoing international program to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons."

Over the weekend, members of the Syrian opposition coalition receiving support from Western powers, including the United States, voted Saturday to attend the peace talks in Switzerland.

Western supporters of the opposition had pressured the group to participate in the negotiations, but opposition groups had been wary of participating. Rebel groups on the ground have warned that negotiations could merely reinforce President Bashar Assad’s legitimacy and undermine the legitimacy of the coalition.

The United Nations also rescinded an invitation to Iran to participate in the peace talks, drawing the ire of Moscow.

The U.S. and rebels had opposed Iran's participation because Tehran had said it would be unwilling to agree to any preconditions, including accepting a framework prescribing a transitional government laid out in a prior peace conference.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the rescinded invitation would make the conference "resemble something profane," but was ultimately "not a catastrophe," according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

Formal talks between the Syrian government and the opposition are slated to begin on Friday.

The Obama administration attempted to build support for military strikes against Assad last year after the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s bloody civil war. The White House ultimately abandoned that effort after Assad agreed to turn over his stockpile of chemical weapons to the international community in a deal brokered by Russia.

The leaders also discussed security ahead of the Sochi Olympics, shortly after Russian security officials said they are actively searching for several potential female suicide bombers who might be targeting the games.

The White House said President Obama offered "its full assistance" to help promote "a safe and secure" games.

Putin and Obama spent much of 2013 at odds, publicly clashing over Moscow's decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden. Obama has also criticized Russia's anti-gay laws, and described the Russian leader as looking like a "bored kid in the back of the classroom" at a press conference earlier this year.

This story was updated at 5:49 p.m.