MOSCOW - Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama have told their foreign ministers to keep in close touch and seek "new initiatives" to end Syria's civil war, the Kremlin said after a telephone conversation between the two leaders.
The Kremlin said Putin and Obama also pledged to seek to avoid steps that would harm Russian-US relations, which have been strained by differences over Syria and other issues including Putin's treatment of opponents since he began a new term as president last May.
The phone call took place three days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and new US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Syrian crisis at a meeting in Berlin but signaled no breakthrough.
"The presidents have instructed (Lavrov and Kerry) to continue active contacts focused on working out possible new initiatives aimed at a political settlement of the crisis (in Syria)," the Kremlin said in a statement.
Senior US and Russian diplomats have met repeatedly in recent months, along with UN Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, with little sign of progress toward a solution to the nearly two-year-old conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people.