Trump, Putin discuss U.S. election meddling in first face-to-face meeting

HAMBURG, Germany -- President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin's high-stakes meeting at the G-20 summit in Germany on Friday lasted four times its planned length.

Trump and Putin began the meeting -- which lasted two hours, 16 minutes -- with light pleasantries, setting a more upbeat tone for talks full of prickly topics, including Syria and efforts to influence US elections.

The two leaders reached an agreement on curbing violence in Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was in the meeting, said afterward.

Tillerson told reporters the ceasefire was a "defined agreement" and could be a precursor to further cooperation in Syria.

"This is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria," Tillerson said.

He said they had a "lengthy discussion of other areas in Syria where we can work together."

According to Russian state-run Sputnik media, the leaders discussed the situation in Ukraine and Syria, the fight against terrorism and cybersecurity.

"I had a very lengthy conversation with the President of the United States, there were a lot of issues such as Ukraine, Syria, other problems, some bilateral issues," Putin is quoted as saying after the session was complete.

Trump and Putin had a lengthy discussion on Russian interference in the U.S. election as well.

The meeting put Trump, a man who ran for president pledging to buck U.S. foreign relations conventions and put "America First," face to face with those promises as people -- including many Democrats -- in the United States urged the president to stand up to Putin, assert American dominance and challenge the Russian leader on 2016 election meddling.

Speaking to reporters at the start of their conference, Trump and Putin remained mostly positive.

"President Putin and I have been discussing various things and I think it is going very well," Trump said. "We have had some very, very good talks."

"We are going to have a talk now and obviously that is going to continue," Trump added. "We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, and for the United States and for everybody concerned. And it's an honor to be with you."

At least during the public portion of the meeting, though, Trump declined to bring up election meddling and ignored reporters who asked him about the topic.

Friday's meeting put Trump in the same as the leader of the country that United States intelligence says meddled in the 2016 election in an effort to get Trump elected.

Putin, in a translation, told Trump he was "delighted" to meet face to face.

"We have spoken on the phone with you several times on very important bilateral and international issues. But phone conversation are never enough," Putin said.

"If we want to resolve bilateral and acute international issues, we definitely need personal meetings. I'm delighted to be able to meet you in person Mr. President, and I hope -- as you have said -- that our meeting will yield positive results."

Trump's formal meeting with Putin, a pivotal encounter that will likely color the tone and tenor of U.S. relations with Russia for years, sits atop Trump's schedule of critical meetings on Friday.

The White House is aware of the stakes. Top aides have worked for weeks to prepare for this encounter with Putin, known for his craft on the international stage, and experts have suggested the White House be prepared for a curveball from the Russian president.

Trump took to Twitter from Germany to look forward to his Putin meeting.

"I look forward to all meetings today with world leaders, including my meeting with Vladimir Putin," Trump said. "Much to discuss."

Any Trump-Putin meeting -- whether official or unofficial -- will likely be tense as both have pestered each other in the lead-up to the G-20.

Trump chided Russia's use of energy as a coercive force and for its actions in eastern Ukraine on Thursday in Poland, while Putin subtly jabbed Trump's trade policies on the sidelines of the summit, according to the Russian state-run media.

"When discussing the situation in the global economy, the Russian side intends to focus on issues regarding ensuring positive dynamics of global trade," Putin said. "We oppose the growing policy of protectionism in the world."

Trump has championed more protectionist policies as president.

Trump's meeting with Putin is surely critical. But the schedule is stacked with possibly tense conversations for Trump, including a prolonged sit-down with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Trump, administration officials said, plans to focus primarily on disputes in Syria and Ukraine when he meets with Putin.

While a formal plan for the meeting has yet to emerge, there is little expectation on the American side that Trump will bring up Russia's 2016 election activities.

The president said Thursday that Russia could have been behind efforts to influence the election but suggested the finger can be pointed elsewhere as well and that "nobody really knows for sure."

"I think it very well could be Russia but I think it could very well have been other countries," Trump said during a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Russia has denied any involvement.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released earlier this year that Russia ordered an "influence campaign" to harm Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the election.

Trump, though, needled Putin in Poland, giving a well-received speech that strongly backed Article 5, the principle that dictates an attack against one NATO country is an attack against all of NATO.

Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said the Russian president took Trump's comments from Poland "into consideration" as he prepared for conversation.