The Presidents of Russia and the United States agreed in a telephone conversation to seek “new initiatives” to end the civil war in Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama took time off the budgetary crisis at home to call Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday evening, Moscow time, to discuss international flashpoints and bilateral issues.

“The Presidents have instructed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry to continue active contacts focused on working out possible new initiatives aimed at a political settlement of the crisis [in Syria],” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The White House account of the phone call, however, said nothing of “new initiatives.”

“The two Presidents agreed on the need to advance a political transition to end the violence as soon as possible and the importance of Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov continuing their engagement on Syria,” the White House said.

Mr. Obama’s phone call to Mr. Putin came two days after French President Francois Holland on a visit to Moscow made “new proposals” to resolve the Syrian crisis through a “political dialogue that would involve all sides in the conflict.” Mr. Putin welcomed the proposals that are yet to be disclosed, saying they were worth discussing and implementing.

Both the Kremlin and the White House stressed that Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama had a “constructive conversation.”

“The leaders of Russia and the U.S. agreed to closely interact on ‘hot’ international issues concerning Syria, Middle East settlement, Iran, North Korea and missile defence plans,” the Kremlin said.

The White House said that Mr. Obama “welcomed strong U.S.-Russian cooperation in the P5+1 to address the Iranian nuclear issue.”

The two leaders agreed to hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland in June, the Kremlin said. Mr. Obama will visit St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Group of 20 meeting in September, the White House added.

Relations between Russia and the U.S. took a turn for the worse after Mr. Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third presidential term a year ago.