US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday, breaking a year-long silence between the two.
Syria dominated the 90-minute meeting, with the two agreeing to hold talks to prevent clashing in the embattled country as the US sides with Syrian rebel forces and Russia backs Syrian President Bashar Assad in the four-year conflict.
While Putin maintained that he would continue to support Assad despite Western criticism, he acknowledged that he would be willing to work with Obama to prevent problems from escalating in the region, describing the meeting as "businesslike" to reporters.
"The Russians certainly understood the importance of there being a political resolution to the conflict in Syria, and there being a process that pursues a political resolution," a US official involved told Reuters after the meeting, on condition of anonymity.
Russia has stepped up its military involvement in Syria in recent weeks, with U.S. officials accusing Moscow of sending combat aircraft, tanks and other equipment to help the Syrian army.
The United States was so concerned about reports of Russia’s increased presence in Syria that Secretary of State John Kerry phoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov a total of three times in ten days to discuss the situation.
But Obama seemed to have pledged to break the silence earlier Monday, pledging in his own UN address that he would be "willing to work with" both Russia and regional ally Iran to solve the Syria crisis.
Hours earlier, Putin had reportedly blasted American support for Syrian rebels as "illegal and ineffective."