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Obama, Russia's Putin huddle on sidelines of G-20 summit amid new Syria diplomatic push


ANTALYA, Turkey — President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin traded views on Syria's civil war and broached the tense topic of Ukraine during an impromptu sit-down Sunday in Turkey, American and Russian officials said.

The roughly 35-minute meeting played out on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit, which brings together leaders from major rich and developing nations. The White House said they discussed a new proposal to end the Syrian conflict and Obama's hope that Russia's airstrikes in Syria will focus on IS, not opposition groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The U.S. also said Obama and Putin had agreed that Syria needs a political transition led by Syrians, preceded by negotiations mediated by the United Nations and a cease-fire. Obama and Putin have long been at odds about whether Assad can maintain a role following that transition.

Obama also renewed his call for Russia to withdraw forces, weapons and support for pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, the White House said.

Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters that Putin and Obama had a "quite detailed conversation," with Syria taking most of the time. He said they talked about the terror attacks in Paris and other terrorism-related issues.

"Strategic goals related to fighting the ISIL are very close, but tactical differences remain," Ushakov said.

Obama's run-ins with Putin, his longtime antagonist, are always closely watched affairs, with analysts trying to discern their level of animosity based on body language. On video provided by host country Turkey, the two leaders could be spotted leaning in close to one another and chatting in casual fashion, joined by Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice and a translator.

Although their meeting wasn't scheduled in advance, White House officials had suggested it was likely the two would find time to chat during the two-day summit. The two last met in September in New York during the U.N. General Assembly.

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