( Reuters ) - President George W. Bush and Russia's Vladimir Putin ended their last face-to-face meeting as heads of state on Sunday with warm words for each other but no solution to their row over missile defense.
With Putin to step down next month and Bush in the twilight of his presidency, both leaders stressed the strong personal rapport which they say has helped keep relations between their countries on an even keel.
But differences over U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in eastern Europe, which have helped drive diplomatic ties to a post-Cold War low, meant their summit on the Black Sea coast ended with no firm agreements.
"This is an area we've got more work to do to convince the Russian side that the system is not aimed at Russia," Bush said after a morning of talks with Putin at the Russian leader's vacation retreat in the resort of Sochi.
Keen to leave a positive legacy for their successors, the two leaders signed a document setting out a "road map" for future ties after they leave office and said they would keep working to reach a compromise on the shield row.
Washington had hoped to make substantial progress towards a deal on the shield at the two-day summit in the resort of Sochi but the vaguely-worded declaration fell short of that.
In preparation for when Putin steps down on May 7, Bush also held talks with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian leader's protege who will take over as president. Bush said afterwards his first impressions were "very positive. A smart fellow."
Seven years ago Bush said he had peered into Bush's soul and found a man he could trust. Since then relations between their two countries have been soured by disputes over Iran, Kosovo, the missile shield and NATO enlargement.
Showing their rapport was nonetheless intact, Bush joined Putin on stage to dance with a Russian folk ensemble at an informal dinner on Saturday. They paid warm tributes to each other after their talks.
"I always appreciated his (Bush's) superior human qualities: honesty, openness and an ability to hear a partner. This is worth a lot," Putin told a joint news conference.