Putin Says U.S., Russia Have Not Abandoned Hopes of Syria Conference
Russia and the U.S. have not abandoned hopes of holding a Syria peace conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after meeting his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on Monday.
Putin told Obama that their positions on Syria do not coincide but both leaders agree on the need to push for negotiations in Syria's two-year-old civil war, the Associated Press reported.
Obama conceded that they have a "different perspective" on Syria but they have a shared interest in stopping the violence and securing chemical weapons in the country.
Obama met with Putin at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland to discuss the fierce fighting in Syria.
While Putin has called for negotiated peace talks, he has not called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power, and he remains one of Assad's strongest political and military allies.
Putin went into the talks after attacking a U.S. decision to begin arming some selected rebel groups battling Assad, Russia's top strategic Arab ally.
Obama is facing domestic political criticism for either edging the United States into another war in the Middle East, or for doing too little to provide anti-Assad forces with the means to reverse recent defeats on the ground.
The meeting, at the Lough Erne resort in Northern Ireland, comes with Russia facing criticism from other G8 nations over its stance on Syria -- but with apparently little incentive to back down following recent advances by Assad.
The proposed peace conference, to be held in Geneva, has been repeatedly delayed amid disputes over who will attend and the ultimate goal of the talks.
Russia said on Monday it would not permit a no-fly zone to be implemented over Syria, following reports that the U.S. military was drawing up contingency plans for such a measure.
The White House, despite signalling that it will send some small arms to rebel groups, said forcefully last week that it had no current intention to mount such an operation to protect civilians in Syria, as it did in Libya.
U.S. officials will try to convince Putin that a descent into deeper chaos and instability in Syria is not in Moscow's national interests.
Top U.S. officials, keen to avoid in Syria the messy splintering of state institutions that led to chaos in Iraq, are stressing the idea that if Assad leaves, elements of the regime, presumably sympathetic to Russia, might stay.