(CN) – President Donald Trump began his first face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin on Friday by confronting the Russian president over meddling in the 2016 presidential election, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
During a new conference immediately after the marathon 2 hour, 16-minute session between the two leaders Tillerson said Putin denied any involvement in efforts to influence the outcome of the election.
On Wednesday, Trump said he believes Russia — and others — may have tried to meddle in the election, but he has steadfastly avoided stating unequivocally in the past that Russia interfered, even as investigations proceed into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who sought to help him win.
During the run-up to the high-stakes, high-profile meeting, Democratic and Republican lawmakers called on Trump to press Putin on the issue.
Tillerson said as they discussed the matter both Trump and Putin agreed the alleged meddling had become an obstacle to better relations between the two countries.
He characterized the discussion of the subject as “robust and lengthy,” and said Trump and Putin agreed to continue the discussion.
Tillerson was one of four people in the room as the two presidents spoke. The other attendee was Russia’s foreign minister.
“I think the president is rightly focused on how do we move forward from something that may be an intractable disagreement at this point,” Tillerson said.
He said the president wants to secure a commitment from Russia that it won’t interfere in U.S. internal affairs in the future.
Tillerson said the two also discussed a joint ceasefire deal for southwestern Syria announced Friday.
Heading into the session held on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Trump said he “looked forward to a lot of positive things happening for Russia, and for the United States and for everyone concerned.”
He then turned to President Putin and said “it’s an honor to be with you.”
Putin responded by saying “I’m delighted to be able to meet you personally, Mr. President. And I hope, as you have said, our meeting will yield a positive result.”
The Russian president said while he and Trump have spoken over the phone, “phone conversations are never enough, definitely.”
Earlier on Friday the two exchanged pleasantries during the taking of the official portrait of attendees the G-20 summit of industrialized and developing nations.