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 from 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”.

Mr. Obama’s phone call to Mr. Putin came two days after French President Francois Holland on a visit to Moscow made “new proposals”

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.