Putting aside important differences, Obama and Putin met over a coffee table on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Turkey after the Paris bombing and shooting assaults, which killed at least 129 people and sparked global outrage.

"The conversation lasted approximately 35 minutes and centred around ongoing efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria, an imperative made all the more urgent by the horrifying terrorist attacks in Paris," a US official said. The Kremlin said 'divergences' remained on strategy but the tone was described as 'constructive' by a US official.

Obama and Putin nevertheless agreed on the need for United Nations talks, a ceasefire and a transition government in Syria, the US official said, seeking a way out of a four-year war in which IS jihadists have thrived, occupying large swathes of territory and displacing millions of people.

The strategy echoed a plan for Syria already forged by diplomats at talks in Vienna the previous day, but it still appeared to mark a perceptible thaw in the icy relations between the former Cold War foes and their leaders.

The Paris attacks on Friday have darkened the mood and injected urgency into anti-terrorism discussions at the G20 summit, which is also grappling with the spreading refugee crisis, climate change and tax avoidance by multinational corporations.

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