President Donald Trump’s first negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that the leaders are committed to dialogue despite the recent challenges to the relationship between their two countries, former EU consultant and USAID adviser Paolo von Schirach told Sputnik.
Trump and Putin met for more than 2 hours on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany on Friday, where they agreed to establish a new ceasefire in southern Syria and to set up a joint cybersecurity unit.
On Monday, the White House confirmed that the two leaders also discussed sanctions related to Russia’s alleged meddling in US elections.
"The headline is the meeting itself — the fact that it took place, if we consider the background of deteriorated relations between Washington and Moscow," Schirach said.
"This was a good first face to face meeting, not because of substantive agreements reached, but because of the length of the exchange which would signal commitment to dialogue."
Schirach, president of the Global Policy Institute and professor of international affairs at BAU International University, claimed that Trump and Putin had confounded critics and exceeded expectations by clearly talking at length on critical issues.
The true significance of the meeting needed to be assessed in the longer term on whether it succeeded in improving the tone of Washington-Moscow relations, he added, although their ability to negotiate a truce in Syria was certainly a welcome development.
"The partial ceasefire agreement in some parts of Syria looks positive.
But we have had several such agreements in the past, although not negotiated by presidents, that did not last very long," Schirach, cautioned.
Schirach acknowledged that the ceasefire in southern could prove to be a step towards a wider agreement to end six years of civil war that had so far cost 600,000 lives.
"Is the limited Syria deal the precursor to a broader ceasefire that will eventually bring peace to this war-ravaged country?
Hard to tell: This is the proverbial first step in the right direction, but no road map leading to peace has been agreed upon by the two leaders," he said.
There was no sign yet that Trump and Putin had made any progress in dealing with such ongoing problems as the conflict in Ukraine or North Korea’s drive to create its own intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of delivering nuclear warheads, Schirach remarked.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters later that the meeting revealed "a very clear, positive chemistry" while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov characterized the session as constructive.