US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Francois Hollande met on Monday morning in Germany and have agreed on several major issues, the White House said.
These include sanctions against Moscow over the disputed conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as Iran’s talks with six world powers over its nuclear programme.
The two leaders agreed that economic sanctions against Russia should remain in place until both Russia and Ukraine comply with the Minsk peace accords.
Relations between Russia and the West have taken a turn for the worse since the March 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia.
Russia is believed to back separatist rebels in Ukraine while it accuses the US of overthrowing Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, favoured by Russia.
Russia has been the subject of economic sanctions by the US and the EU since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014.
In May, a US State Department official speaking under the condition of anonymity implied sanctions could be adjusted, should Russia comply with the Minsk peace plan by withdrawing heavy equipment from eastern Ukraine and respecting Ukraine’s borders.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama was urging European leaders to renew sanctions against Russia until it complies with the Minsk ceasefire agreement. The sanctions are set to expire at the end of July. Earlier this year, Italy and Spain both refused to agree to extend the sanctions.
Obama and Hollande also agreed to continue talks with Iran over its nuclear programme. The current deadline, deemed “artificial” by French diplomats, is June 30. Iranian officials have said they may be willing to continue negotiations past the deadline to reach an agreement.
In exchange for ending sanctions which have hurt its economy, Iran has agreed in a preliminary deal to limit sensitive nuclear work for at least 10 years, reduce the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges it operates and to allow more inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran demands that as soon as the final deal is signed, the sanctions should be lifted immediately, while other parties involved in the negotiations say that sanctions will only be lifted once the IAEA confirms Iran’s compliance with agreement terms.
Later on Monday, Obama met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, primarily to discuss the threat of ISIS.
According to Earnest, Obama wants to look for “more efficient ways that we can offer assistance to Iraqi security forces.” Abadi has sought increased support from the US and its partners.
Speaking to the press before his meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Obama said he is "absolutely confident we will succeed" if the international coalition supports Abadi and the prime minister who has a government that represents everyone.