Obama to Discuss Syria Tuesday with Russia, China Leadersإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian and Chinese counterparts will discuss differences over what to do about the conflict in Syria at a G20 summit next week, the U.S. said on Friday.
"Obviously disagreements persist with regard to Syria, but it will be a good opportunity for the presidents to meet and work it through," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, referring to the Mexico talks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied Friday Moscow has been discussing Syrian President Bashar Assad's departure with Western nations, in comments seemingly aimed at quashing reports about a shift in its approach to Syria.
"No such discussions" about political transition in Syria had taken place, he said, a day after Nuland talked of a "constructive conversation" with the Russians in Kabul on a transition plan modeled on Yemen.
Nuland said Friday she had not meant "to imply any positions on their part."
But she added: "We were talking about the general direction that we want to see Syria go, the general principles that the secretary has outlined for a post-Assad transition.
"With regard to our dialogue with the Russians we are talking about the full spectrum of issues," she told journalists.
"We are talking about the situation in Syria. We are talking about how we can implement the Kofi Annan plan in all of its elements."
The six-point plan drawn up by U.N.-Arab-League envoy Kofi Annan includes a Syrian-led process to bring in political transition in Syria, where President Bashar Assad has unleashed a brutal crackdown on opposition rebels.
Also on Friday, the United States said that it did not seek to prevent Russian influence in a Syria no longer ruled by Assad.
Russia has balked at U.S. efforts to push Assad from power as civil and sectarian strife rages in Syria, apparently partly motivated to retain a crucial Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ally dating from the Soviet era.
"We have certainly made clear that our interest in Syria is not the end of any kind of Russian influence," deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters.
"Our interest in Syria is an end to the violence that's being committed against the Syrian people and a government that reflects the will of the Syrian people," Rhodes said, adding that for such a scenario to unfold, Assad needed to leave power.
"If Syria continues to have a relationship with Russia, if Russia continues to have, again, a close relationship with the future government of Syria, that would be in the natural decision-making of two sovereign nations."
"It's not our goal in Syria to eliminate Russian influence."
Rhodes said that Washington was still checking into earlier reports, by NBC News citing a U.S. official, that Moscow had sent armed troops to Syria to guard its deep-water port and military base in the Syrian city of Tartus.
The French foreign minister said on Friday that Russia views Assad as a "tyrant" while U.S. State Department spokeswoman Nuland said a day earlier that "the Russians have also talked about" a political transition in Syria.
"If this was really said, this is not true," Lavrov said in reference to Nuland's comments.
"There were no such discussions and there could not have been such discussions. This completely contradicts our position," he told reporters.
Analysts say that Russia's position on Syria is partly motivated by its experience in Libya, when it decided not to block a U.N.-mandated no fly zone, only to see Western nations help push strongman Moammar Gadhafi from power.
Lavrov was speaking a day after meeting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns in Kabul.
Nuland on Friday billed Obama's talks with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos as a "good opportunity" to discuss differences between the two governments over Syria.
Obama will also meet next week with China's President Hu Jintao at the G20 summit in Mexico, the White House announced on Friday.
Deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters that the two leaders, who last met in Seoul at the nuclear summit in March, would discuss key international issues, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea when they meet next Tuesday.
The announcement came as the Group of 20 bloc of the world's greatest economic powers prepared to meet next week in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos.
The leaders of the world's biggest economies are also to take up the debt crisis in Europe, and frantic global efforts to stabilize the eurozone's finances in an effort to stave off a collapse that could damage economies worldwide.
Beijing on Wednesday called on leaders at the G20 summit to express their confidence in Europe, which has had a negative impact on U.S. and Chinese growth.
China has looked on with concern as the debt crisis deepens in Europe -- its largest export market -- and impacts its own economy.
Growth fell to 8.1 percent in China in the first quarter of 2012 from 9.7 percent a year earlier, due in part to Europe's debt woes that have curbed business activity.
Last week China cut its base interest rate for the first time in three years in order to boost growth, the clearest indicator yet that the motor of world manufacturing is losing steam.