Putin, Obama discuss Syria by telephone: Kremlin

Russian leader Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama discussed Syria and other urgent issues by telephone Friday, the Kremlin said, noting that the call was initiated by Washington.

"Within the context of the Syria crisis, Mr. Putin noted the need to end military activities as soon as possible," the Kremlin statement said.

Russia has drawn the West's anger by vetoing three UN Security Council resolutions censuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a nearly two-year conflict that has claimed more than 70,000 lives.

Relations between Moscow and Washington in particular have been harmed by the Obama administration's criticism of the deteriorating human rights record under Putin.

Putin's office said the two leaders agreed to work together from now on.

The Kremlin said "the leaders are united in their desire to avoid any steps that could negatively reflect on bilateral relations."

It added that Putin once again extended an invitation for Obama to pay an official visit to Russia.

Moscow had hoped such talks would be held last year and is now holding out the idea of Obama visiting before world leaders gather in September in Saint Petersburg for the Group of Eight rich nations summit.

Washington has not indicated when Obama intends to visit Russia.