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Cameron Says Russia And Britain Can Bridge Differences

  • RFE/RL

British Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint news conference at 10 Downing Street, London, on June 16.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint news conference at 10 Downing Street, London, on June 16.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has said that Russia and Britain can overcome their diverging views on the conflict in Syria despite big differences.

"There's no secret that President Putin and I have had our disagreements on some of these [Syrian] issues," Cameron said at a short news conference on June 16 after meeting President Vladimir Putin in London. "But what I take from our conversation today is that we can overcome these differences if we recognize that we share some fundamental aims -- to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people choose who governs them, and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them."

Putin and Cameron met ahead of a summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations which starts on June 17 near Lough Erne in Northern Ireland.

The meeting came after the United States said it found proof that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, and that Washington is now ready to start providing weapons to the rebels.

Moscow is backing and arming the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while Britain supports the Syrian rebels and is seeking to arm them.

Putin told the news conference that Russia's arms deliveries to Syria were in compliance with the international law. Putin questioned the West's decision to arm the rebels, who he said were eating human flesh in front of the cameras. But he added that both sides in the conflict had children's blood on their hands.

Nonetheless, Putin maintained that the idea of an international forum on Syria was still alive.

The United States and Russia have launched a joint initiative to bring together the Syrian regime and opposition for settlement talks, but no date for a conference has been set.

Cameron told reporters that he and Putin have agreed to push for larger international support for such a conference at the upcoming G8 summit.

"We agreed that the G8 must back the work of Secretary [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, [and U.S.] Secretary [of State John] Kerry, to bring Syrians into a new peace process," he said. "And we will use the opportunity of having G8 leaders together to try to build on this common ground."

Military Airport Near Damascus Targeted

In related news, a large explosion struck near a military airport near the Syrian capital Damascus late on June 16.

State TV and activists said the car bomb exploded at a road block near the Mezze military airport.

State controlled al-Ikhbariya Television said the explosion "resulted from an attempt to target the Mezze military airport."

Activists said Assad's forces cut off roads leading to the airport following the blast. The opposition's Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack killed 10 soldiers and wounded 10 others.

The compound is manned by Republican Guards, Special Forces and Airforce Intelligence.

It serves as a private airport for the Assad family. Since the uprising, it has been used as an artillery and rocket base to target rebellious Sunni Muslim neighborhoods on the edge of the capital.

The United Nations said on June 17 that the overall death toll in the Syrian civil war has reached nearly 93,000, with civilians bearing the brunt of the attacks.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and AFP