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Obama, Putin Discuss Syria Cease-fire at G-20 in Hangzhou, China

The talks came just hours after the U.S. and Russia failed to strike a deal over a Syria cease-fire.
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama.ALEXEI DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN / EPA
/ Source: Reuters

President Barack Obama held "businesslike" talks with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of his final G-20 summit Monday, urging progress on a Syria cease-fire and warning against "wild west" hacking wars.

The U.S. president shook hands with his Russian counterpart in front of cameras in Hangzhou, China, before sitting down for 90-minute discussions that Obama later described as "constructive but not conclusive."

"Typically the tone of our meetings is candid, blunt ... businesslike — and this was no different," Obama told a press conference after the talks.

The meeting came hours after Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were unsuccessful in attempts to strike a deal for a Syria ceasefire — the second failed effort in two weeks.

Obama acknowledged that the meetings did not yield a breakthrough, telling reporters that "given the gaps of trust that exist, that's a tough negotiation."

"We haven't yet closed the gaps," he said.

In addition to discussing Syria — and Ukraine — Obama said he also raised the issue of cybersecurity with Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama.ALEXEI DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN / EPA

However, the U.S. president said he would not comment on "specific investigations" — an apparent reference to the recent hack of the Democratic Party, which is now the subject of an FBI probe.

"We've had problems with cyber-intrusion with Russia in the past ... and other countries," Obama said, adding that he told Putin he did not to see an escalation of retaliatory cyber warfare like the "wild, wild west."

Moscow's account of the meeting was brief. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it "went well,” according to Reuters, citing Russian news agency RIA.

"Work will continue," he reportedly said.

The G-20 leaders met as North Korea launched three ballistic missiles off its east coast — a defiant reminder of the challenges to global security.

Pyongyang in the past has tested missiles at sensitive moments to draw attention to its military might. But Monday's launch risks embarrassing its main ally Beijing, which has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure a smooth summit in Hangzhou.

After meeting with Putin, Obama on Monday held talks with French President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Obama said all Western leaders were keen for Russia to implement the Minsk peace agreement, adding that he would not consider reducing sanctions on Moscow until the deal had been put in place.

Kristin Donnelly and The Associated Press contributed.