Prime Minister Stephen Harper used a meeting at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia to urge that country's President Vladimir Putin to be less obstructive towards ending the bloodshed and violence in Syria.

The two leaders met for close to an hour in a discussion that lasted twice as long as had been originally expected.

"Obviously, Mr Putin has his own perspective, but I urge Russia to play a more positive role than it's been playing," Harper said after the meeting ended.

The Prime Minister would not say if he made any progress in his efforts to sway Putin.

Although there are a number of other issues on the table in the discussions between Canada and Russia, Canada's ambassador to Russia says the entire relationship is in a holding pattern because of Syria.

'I urge Russia to play a more positive role than it's been playing' —Prime Minister Stephen Harper

A senior government official who was in the room for Saturday's meeting described the spirited exchange on Syria to The Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity.

Putin told Harper that Russia is not a friend of the Assad regime; Russia just wants stability and a diplomatic solution, the official said, adding that Harper reiterated Canada's long-standing position that a diplomatic solution is the best option.

In Syria, President Bashar Assad has battled an 18-month uprising that has left at least 23,000 of his citizens dead.

Clinton also urges Russia to act

Harper's message on Syria was repeated in two other meetings Saturday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who met with both Putin and also with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Again, Moscow rejected calls for increased pressure on Assad.

"Our American partners have a prevailing tendency to threaten and increase pressure, adopt ever more sanctions against Syria and against Iran," Lavrov said. "Russia is fundamentally against this," he said.

Also at the APEC talks, Asia-Pacific leaders focused on a key goal is to foster closer economic ties and to dismantle barriers that slow trade.

Both China and host Russia pledged to do what they can to support those aims at a time when the global recovery is appears to be faltering.

Putin and his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak agreed to collaborate on resolving the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program.

During their meetings, the APEC leaders are expected to approve various initiatives, including one that will cut tariffs on environmental-related goods, such as waste-water treatment technologies, to five per cent by 2015.

With files from The Canadian Press