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Germany, Russia Back Political Solution For Syria

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks next to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference in Berlin
Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany and Russia are united in seeking a political solution to the escalating conflict in Syria.
Merkel spoke on June 1 in Berlin alongside visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is making his first foreign trip since being inaugurated for a third term as Russian president last month.
Merkel urged the international community to ramp up efforts toward putting an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

"We agreed that each country, and I said this on behalf of Germany, must do its utmost to ensure this [conflict in Syria] doesn't turn into a civil war or cause more people to suffer," Merkel said.
Her comments came amid renewed Western pressure on Russia over its opposition to tougher United Nations action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria has been a longtime ally of Moscow and a major purchaser of Russian arms.
Western-led calls for action against Syria intensified following last week's massacre in the Syrian town of Houla that left 108 people dead. Many of the victims were children and women who had been reportedly killed execution-style.
The killings sparked international outrage and prompted many nations to expel Syrian diplomats.
More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, are estimated to have been killed in violence since the uprising against Assad's regime began in March 2011.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 31 warned that Moscow's stance could contribute to a Syrian civil war.
'No Russia Backing'

At a news conference, Putin stressed that Moscow neither backed Assad in the conflict nor sold weapons "that could be used in a civil conflict" to the Syrian regime.

"All those who claim that [Russia] supports any particular regime -- in this case President Assad's regime -- are wrong. We have had good relations with Syria for many years but we do not support either side," Putin said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, on June 1 said that Russia's stance on the conflict in Syria is widely viewed as supporting the Assad government.

Speaking in Oslo, Clinton reiterated that "the continued supply of arms from Russia has strengthened the Assad regime."
Newly elected French President Francois Hollande, who will host talks with Putin later on June 1, said he would seek to persuade Putin to back a new round of sanctions against the Syrian regime.
Hollande has not ruled out an international military intervention in Syria, but says the move must first be backed by the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a veto-holding permanent member.
Russian government spokesmen said earlier this week that Moscow is categorically opposed to foreign military intervention in Syria, and that Russia will not be swayed by pressure from Western states.
Putin's meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel also focused on Moscow's push for greater Russian access to European markets. Germany is Russia's single biggest EU trade partner.
The duo was expected to discuss energy issues, including progress on the North Stream pipeline, which is planned to pump Russian gas to Germany across the Baltic Sea.
Merkel on June 1 called Russia a "reliable energy supplier."
She said talks with the Russian president also touched on Iran's controversial nuclear activities, over which Russia has also opposed UN sanctions backed by the West.
Based on reporting from Reuters, AP, AFP, and Interfax
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