U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in principle during their July summit in Helsinki that Iran should exit Syria, a U.S. administration official familiar with the meeting said Thursday, according to Bloomberg news.
The summit was largely dominated by discussion of the crisis in Syria and Iran’s role in the conflict, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Russian leadership, however, said accomplishing Iran’s withdrawal would be difficult.
Trump and Putin also discussed the campaign against the Islamic State, disputes over Golan Heights, and the humanitarian situation in Syria, which has suffered years of civil war, the official said.
Trump briefed his chief of staff, John Kelly, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman for 15 minutes immediately after meeting one-on-one with Putin, the official added.
Iran’s presence in Syria has been a major cause for concern for Israel. Israeli officials have made clear that Israel will not accept any Iranian military entrenchment in Syria. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Putin have held several meetings to discuss the issue.
Both Tehran and Moscow are backing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.
Near the start of the Syrian civil war, it was reported that then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.
Late last year it was reported that Syrian army forces, backed by Iranian-backed militias, were pushing deeper into the last rebel-held enclave near a strategic border area with Israel.