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Obama And Putin Disagree On Syria, Push For Diplomatic Solution

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart address the press after their meeting on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Northern Ireland on June 17.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart address the press after their meeting on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Northern Ireland on June 17.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have held talks on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Northern Ireland focusing on the crisis in Syria.

Putin said the two countries want the bloodshed in Syria to stop and stressed their joint interest in a negotiated end to the protracted fighting despite their differing views.

"Of course our opinions do not coincide, but all of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria, to stop the growth of victims and to solve the situation peacefully, including by bringing the parties to the negotiations table in Geneva. We agreed to push the parties to the negotiations table," Putin said.

Obama echoed that message, adding Washington and Moscow wanted to ensure chemical weapons were not used in Syria.

"And with respect to Syria we do have different perspectives on the problem but we share an interest reducing the violence, securing chemical weapons, ensuring they are never used or subject to proliferation. And that we want to try and resolve the issue through political means if possible, so we will instruct our teams to continue to work on the potential to work on the potential to a Geneva follow up to the first meeting," Obama said.

Obama said the two leaders had instructed their teams to work on a peace conference on Syria that will be held in Geneva.

Western powers have criticized Putin for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the two-year-old uprising, in which at least 93,000 people are believed by the United Nations to have been killed.

Last week, the Obama administration announced it would step up military aid to the rebels in Syria.

In an apparent response to the U.S. plan, Assad on June 17 said Europe would "pay the price" if it delivered arms to rebel forces, saying that would result in the export of terrorism to Europe.

The Obama administration also announced on June 17 more than $300 million in new humanitarian aid to address the Syrian crisis and to help neighboring countries cope with the 1.6 million refugees who have so far fled the civil war.

Pyongyang And Tehran

During two hours of talks, Obama and Putin also discussed North Korea and Iran.

Obama said Moscow and Washington were hopeful after the election of Iranian cleric Hassan Rohani as president.

"Our discussions on North Korea and Iran were very productive and we both agreed to consult closely on the North Korean issue and in Iran we both expressed cautious optimism that with a new election there we may be able to move forward on a dialogue that allows us to resolve the problems with Iran's nuclear program," Obama told reporters.

Washington suspects Iran is developing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Earlier on June 17, Rohani promised more transparency on his country's nuclear program but said Tehran will not stop its uranium-enrichment program, which is among the sensitive work that has prompted four rounds of UN sanctions against Iran.


Based on reporting by AP and Reuters
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