Russia Says Agreements Were Discussed With Trump On Syria. The U.S. Is Silent The Trump administration has offered no information about supposed "specific" proposals that Russian officials have mentioned publicly.
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Russia Says Agreements Were Discussed With Trump On Syria. The U.S. Is Silent

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Russia Says Agreements Were Discussed With Trump On Syria. The U.S. Is Silent

Russia Says Agreements Were Discussed With Trump On Syria. The U.S. Is Silent

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The White House says President Trump is inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this fall. Well, before then, there are mixed messages to clear up. Russian officials say Trump and Putin agreed in Helsinki to work together in Syria. The U.S. general overseeing the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq says he has received no guidance about what that means. Here's NPR's Tom Bowman.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: General Joe Votel told reporters in a video teleconference that he's only working with Russia on what's called deconfliction. That means the two militaries communicate so that aircraft are not involved in accidents or mishaps in the skies over Syria.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

GEN JOSEPH VOTEL: First off, let me just reiterate - no new guidance for me as a result of the Helsinki discussions as of yet.

BOWMAN: The guidance Votel does have is to finish off the Islamic State, clearing the final cluster of fighters along the border with Iraq. Russia meanwhile is focused on something different - propping up the Assad regime and attacking anti-Syrian rebels, some of whom are being supported by the United States.

So far, Russian officials are the only ones providing information about any agreements in Helsinki. The Pentagon has been silent, and the White House put out a statement saying it was reviewing the discussions between the two presidents and, quote, "considering possible next steps." During his press conference at the Helsinki summit this week, President Trump was asked about the U.S. and Russian militaries cooperating in Syria. And he had this to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Our militaries do get along very well, and they do coordinate in Syria and other places.

BOWMAN: But the two militaries do not coordinate in Syria. And a law passed four years ago after Russia's seizure of Crimea actually prohibits the two militaries from working together. General Votel picked up on that with reporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

VOTEL: It is true the National Defense Authorization Act as a law prohibits us from coordinating, synchronizing, collaborating with Russian forces, so that does guide our activities.

BOWMAN: So how could the U.S. work with Russia in Syria? The general said Congress would have to take some type of action, maybe come up with a waiver. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

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