Trump, Putin discuss ‘coordination’ against ISIS

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President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday agreed to pursue “real coordination” against the Islamic State in Syria, according to the Kremlin.

The two leaders spoke for the first time since Trump’s inauguration in a phone call around noon Eastern time.

Hours later, the White House echoed the Russian government, saying both men agreed on the need for “mutual cooperation in defeating ISIS.”

The conversation comes as Trump is facing pressure from Congress and European allies to maintain a hard line against Moscow, including keeping sanctions in place.

But the new president is seeking to rebuild ties with Russia that have long been frayed over the Kremlin’s 2014 military intervention in Ukraine, its support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and U.S. intelligence agencies’ assertion that Putin ordered the hacking of Democratic political groups to help Trump win the election in November.

The Russian and U.S. statements made no specific mention of whether the two leaders discussed lifting sanctions related to the Ukraine conflict and hacking, but Moscow stressed the importance of restoring “mutually beneficial trade and economic ties.”

They also agreed to “establish a partnership cooperation” on Ukraine and other conflicts in the Middle East, including Syria, Putin’s office said.

The White House made no mention of Ukraine but said that he wants to pursue “efforts in working together to achieve more peace throughout the world including Syria.”

Trump spoke to Putin sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. He was accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, senior counselor Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer.

A glass of soda sat on the desk as Trump and Putin spoke on the phone, a conversation the White House said lasted an hour.

Trump spoke to a number of world leaders on Saturday as he seeks to establish new relationships and jump-start his foreign policy.

But two of the leaders he spoke with, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Holland, are both ardent supporters of Western sanctions against Russia.

The White House did not say whether Trump and Merkel discuss sanctions, but the two leaders did talk about “the Ukraine crisis.”

“Both leaders affirmed the importance of close German-American cooperation to our countries’ security and prosperity,” according to the White House.

They also agreed on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s “fundamental importance” to both nations.

Updated: 6:34 p.m.

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