Monday, June 17, 2013

US president says talks 'very useful' but Russia admits 'our opinions do not coincide' as pair look to end conflict in Syria

    Monday, June 17, 2013   No comments

Prospects of agreement between Moscow and Washington on how to end the war in Syria looked as remote as ever on Monday after a chilly bilateral meeting between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin ended with a stiff exchange of diplomatic pleasantries.

President Obama said the talks, on the fringes of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, had been "very useful", but both sides acknowledged disagreements over whether President Assad should step down and if rebel groups should receive arms from the west.

President Putin agreed that Russia and the US would continue to push the warring parties in Syria to the negotiating table.

"Of course, our opinions do not coincide," said Putin. "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."

Russia's failure to respond positively to US claims of chemical weapons use in Syria and its hostile response to Obama's plan to give military support to rebel groups means the two leaders remain deeply divided.

Speaking after the meeting, Obama said: "With respect to Syria, we do have differing perspectives on the problem, but we share an interest in reducing the violence; securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they're neither used nor are they subject to proliferation; and that we want to try to resolve the issue through political means, if possible."

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