Trump, Putin talk Moscow interference in US election


President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, discussed Moscow's interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, Syria and tension surrounding North Korea at their first-ever meeting Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the more than two-hour meeting on the margins of the G-20 summit in Germany, told reporters Trump and Putin had a "robust and lengthy" discussion about Russian interference-a claim denied by the Russian leader.

"The two leaders also acknowledged the challenges of cyber threats and interference in the democratic processes of the United States and other countries, and agreed to explore creating a framework around which the two countries can work together to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats," Tillerson said.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a press conference said, "Trump has said that he has heard clear declarations from Mr. Putin that Russian leadership and Russian government have not interfered with in the elections and he accepts the things Mr. Putin has said."

Lavrov's claim was called "bogus" by the U.S. officials, according to media reports.

On the issue of Syria, Tillerson said two leaders reach an agreement, along with Jordan, on a cease-fire in southwest Syria.

"This de-escalation area was agreed. It's well-defined -- agreements on who will secure this area. A cease-fire has been entered into. And I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria," Tillerson said.

Areas in which acts of aggression are nominally prohibited would cover Idlib and certain parts of the Latakia, Homs, Aleppo and Hama provinces, along with Damascus, Eastern Ghouta, Daraa and Quneitra, according to the deal.

In separate talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana in May, Turkey agreed with Russia and Iran on a plan to establish a network of "de-escalation zones" in different regions of war-torn Syria.

Turning to North Korea, asked if Putin agreed to help the U.S. put more pressure on Pyongyang following its test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier this week, Tillerson said the two leaders had a "pretty good" exchange on the issue and that discussions would continue.

"There's a clear understanding between the two of us of our intent, and I think the sanctions action that was taken here just in the last week to 10 days certainly got their attention," Tillerson said. "In terms of their understanding our resolve to bring more pressure to bear on North Korea by directly going after entities doing business with North Korea, regardless of where they may be located."

North Korea announced its first successful ICBM test Tuesday, claiming the missile reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers (1,740 miles) and flew 933 kilometers (580 miles) for 39 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan.

The American UN envoy, Nikki Haley, said Thursday the U.S. wants to avoid a conflict but the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by North Korea a day earlier "is a clear, sharp military escalation" and the U.S. is ready to use its "considerable military forces" to defend itself when necessary.

China and Russia voiced concerns about the ICBM test, but urged dialogue with North Korea while criticizing Washington's rhetoric and its deployment of a missile defense system in South Korea.

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