President Obama exchanged "pleasantries" with Russian President Vladimir Putin at an economic summit Sunday, while urging Putin to withdraw from Ukraine and work toward resolving the conflict in Syria, the White House said.
Obama is winding up his last foreign trip as president, attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru. So the four-minute encounter is likely to be the last face-to-face meeting between the two rivals before President-elect Donald Trump takes the helm of U.S. foreign policy.
Trump has promised a fresh start in his relationship with the Russian leader. But in Berlin last Thursday, Obama urged Trump not "just cut some deals" with Russia for the sake of short-term expediency.
Obama's conversation with Putin occurred outside the earshot of reporters, but a White House official confirmed the substance of the conversation on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations. The official said Obama urged the two countries "to continue pursuing initiatives, together with the broader international community, to diminish the violence and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people."
Russia often gives more detailed accounts to the Putin's conversations with Obama. But Sunday, Putin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said only that "they greeted each other and exchanged a couple of words," according to the official Russian news agency.