Obama Putin meeting UN General Assembly
US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Sharp differences on a role for Bashar al-Assad in war-torn Syria's future emerged during bilateral talks between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, Putin said: "Today's discussion, as I have already said, was very meaningful, formal and surprisingly very frank. We found a lot in common, but there are differences. But in my opinion it is necessary to have the opportunity to work together on common problems."

He was responding to calls made by Obama and French President Francois Hollande for Assad to stand down in order to press ahead with the anti-IS operations in Syria and Iraq. Putin said Russia would consider coordinating air strikes with the US-led coalition against IS (Isis) . He, however, ruled out the presence of his country's troops as part of the ground operation in Syria.

A senior Obama administration official said: "This was not a situation where either one of them was seeking to score points in a meeting. I think there was a shared desire to figure out a way in which we can address the situation in Syria."

Earlier, speaking at the UN General Assembly, Putin said: "I respect my colleagues, the US president and the French president, but I don't think they are Syrian citizens, so I don't think they should be deciding on who should lead Syria."

Obama, who spoke before Putin, said: "In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse."

The bilateral talks lasted nearly 94 minutes against the scheduled one hour. Putin said the meeting was proposed by the American side. The meeting came shortly after the two leaders addressed the General Assembly on what was called a "massive Monday", due to the speeches by many important world heads of state.