Cameron: UK and Russia 'can overcome Syria differences'


David Cameron: "You can see there are very big differences between our analyses of what happened in Syria and who was to blame"

David Cameron and President Putin can overcome differences on Syria to bring new momentum to efforts to stop the killing in Syria, the PM has said.

Mr Cameron said it was no secret he and the Russian president had disagreements over Syria, but they shared a common aim - to end the conflict.

Both wanted to keep Syria intact and get a transitional government in place, he said.

Mr Putin was at No 10 for talks ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Cameron said they had also discussed the "rules of the game for the world economy", particularly on tax and company ownership; and working together more closely on issues like science and space, trade and investment.

Arming rebels

He said it was "no secret" the two leaders had disagreements over Syria.

Speaking to John Pienaar on BBC Radio 5 live he said President Putin's arming of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime would not stop the West from arming the rebels.

He said Moscow could not veto the West, explaining: "I don't think anyone has a veto, but...we won't get a successful peace conference unless everybody does everything that can to help bring it about".

On Friday, the US announced it would supply some rebels with direct military aid after seeing evidence of chemical weapons use by Assad's regime.

Moscow is unconvinced about the evidence on chemical weapons and has said it will supply President Assad with advanced anti-aircraft missiles.

Putin faces a British prime minister who cannot do what he believes in and an American president who doesn't show much sign of believing in what he's apparently committed to doing

Mr Putin said Moscow was not breaching any laws by supplying arms to the "legitimate government of Syria".

Meanwhile, Egypt has cut off diplomatic relations with Syria and announced it will close its embassy in Cairo.

The Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi also demanded the withdrawal of the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah - which has been condemned by the Arab League and the UN Human Rights Council for its role in the retaking of the key border town of Qusair from rebel forces earlier this month.

Mr Putin said "blood is on the hands" of both the Syrian government and the rebels.

And in an apparent reference to a video that emerged last month which appeared to show a Syrian rebel eating the heart of a dead soldier, he said the behaviour of some rebels, who "eat the organs" of their enemies, went against the "humanitarian and cultural values" of Europe.

Earlier Mr Cameron told Sky News' Murnaghan programme there were "very dangerous" elements with the Syrian opposition the UK does not approve of but the moderate elements supported a "free" and "pluralistic system".

'Common ground'

Mr Cameron said there was a "very big difference" in the Russian and British view of who was to blame in the conflict. But he added: "We both see a humanitarian crisis."

He said: "What I take from our conversation today is that we can overcome these differences if we recognise that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people decide who governs them and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them."

He added: "We will use the opportunity of having G8 leaders together to try and build on this common ground."

President Putin said he did not agree that previous efforts to secure peace talks had been "thwarted".


The differences between Russia's position on Syria and that of the West was thrown into stark relief by the Downing Street meeting between President Putin and the prime minister.

They are so deep that they look set to over-shadow this G8 summit in Northern Ireland unless, as Mr Cameron hopes, the discussion can focus on bolstering chances for some kind of renewed peace talks in Geneva.

But that seems a vain hope. The balance of advantage on the ground in Syria seems to be shifting towards the government side.

Hezbollah's role in joining the fighting threatens a much broader contagion.

The Syria drama risks becoming a regional crisis, with countries such as France now describing this as a struggle between the rebels on one side and the Syrian regime, Hezbollah and Iran on the other.

He said he fully shared Mr Cameron's view the conflict could only "be resolved by political and diplomatic means".

Along with the US, Moscow has been leading efforts to organise peace talks in Geneva next month but the Syrian opposition has not said whether it will attend.

The PM said the UK government had made "no decision" to follow the US's lead on arming the rebels.

But he told BBC Radio 5 live the US evidence of chemical weapon use was "backed up" by information he had received as well. Due to the findings, he said it "is very urgent that we take action and that President Assad knows that he can't just pursue a military solution to this situation."

'Not weapons'

Earlier Mr Cameron told Murnaghan: "I think where we can actually give the greatest assistance to the official proper Syrian opposition, is advice, is training and is technical support" - and not weapons.

His Lib Dem deputy, Nick Clegg, told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme: "We clearly don't think it [arming the rebels] is the right thing to do now, otherwise we would have decided to do it."

Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the case was "not proven yet" that arming the rebels would make a difference and former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown said it would be "an act of very considerable folly" to do so.

Mr Cameron has been under pressure from his own backbenchers to hold a vote in Parliament on the issue. He told Sky: "I never want to stand in the way of Parliament having a say one way or another... [but] we are not there yet, we have not made that decision."

Two years of civil war in Syria has left an estimated 93,000 people dead.

The G8 summit - a meeting of eight global leaders to address international issues - takes place in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh on Monday and Tuesday.

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the US and the UK will be represented.

Mr Cameron will also meet President Obama ahead of the summit.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    I think the govt sould not do a tony Blair. They cannot guarantee that aid will not go to the wrong could be spent on NHS and education...what benefit to uk to interfere in domestic affairs of other countries . Why don't we arm the opposition in Bahrain..they are 80%of the. Country. The govt is not listening to the people...there is no support for aiding the rebels

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Why is Cameron even sticking his snot box in? They don't even worship the same sky fairy that we do..and they are all fanatics..! Aren't they..? When your own house is slipping into the don't go and help the guy over the road who dosent even like you first..!,

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Stories of chemical weapons look like no more than weapons of mass seduction. Another little ploy to get hackles up amongst the army types who will then send their kids and themselves off to get killed in a battle that has no relevance to anything. i don't even go for the our side good theirs bad myself, if they are it's very little difference. How about making our country great instead?

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    2 Minutes ago
    @236.CURTAINS 2012

    Torture is already a war crime,


    So, why did Barry Obama not do something about those war crimes? Why did he want people to suffer from chemical weapons in addition?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    History lesson 1.
    Back in the Eighties, the USA handed out missiles and other goodies to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the freedom fighters trying to kill lots of Russians in Afghanistan. But Hekmatyar then became a terrorist and decided to kill lots of the American occupiers of his country using the same weapons donated to him by those grand arms dealers the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Sending any troops, in anger, to a foreign country is an Act of War. It's not a police action, UN enforcement of a sketchy resolution, or No-Fly Zone. It is an act of military aggression from outside, it is an Act of War.

    If we do as Tony Blair today cries: "Intervene", it'll add to my frustration of living in a country without a Constitution, constraining these maniacs from going to War.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Only in this country could a young man be decapitated in front of women and children during a busy lunchtime and days after, we have the repulsive farce of Cameron offering to arm the same maniacs, gangsters and 7th Century fanatics who comprise the Syrian opposition - which let us not forget, is supported explicitly by those responsible for the Woolwich murder. Yes, it may be about oil and arms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    A Greek blog claim that, Cameron has already given the go ahead for the British troops that took part in the NATO exercise in Jordan, together with the Polish (trained by the SAS) and the Americans, a total number of 7000 troops, to move to the Syria-Jordan borders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    'Don't forget the BBC is part of the Government Propaganda tools too. They are the ones that gives them legitimacy at the end of the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    The ego's of our politicians won't allow them to accept that we simply cannot afford to get involved in any more pointless overseas wars. They desperately want to be big fish in a big pond - and to hell with all the "liitle people" back home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Cameron will agree to give a few more London mansion houses to a few more rich russians, to obtain Putin's co-operation. What else does the UK have to offer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Syria is in an appalling situation which can only be resolved by dialogue and a willingness to compromise. All the major countries appear to be as clueless as they usually are and so should stay out of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    We could persuade Russia to go along with our plans by threatening to stop buying gas from them...that'd work wouldn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    This conflict is all about Saudi Arabia versus Iran, the two sides of Islam.
    Syria is like Belgium and is just a useful place for the punch-up. To a lesser degree the same is still happening in Iraq. Why we need to be involved beats me. If there was something to gain perhaps I could be interested but as there isn't we must stay away. We support Saudi and the Russians support Iran- Oh dear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Just when you want a politician to do exactly what they are best at… 'nothing', they decide that they must do something. When will ever get it right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    DC: "Vladimir, it is not our problem so we are going to leave them to sort it out themselves."
    VP: "Correct David, we should not be shoving our noses in where they don't belong."

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    The Soviet Union has fallen, the Cold War has ended, yet still the west fights proxy wars with the Russians.

    Whilst I don't agree with direct intervention in the Syrian Civil War, Russia needs to realise it is on the wrong side and instead of arming the Syrian Army, should work with a diplomatic solution.

    Then again this is Putin and talking to a brick wall would yield better responses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    The case for intervention in Syria is much weaker than in Iraq. Internal support/opposition for Assad is FAR more evenly balanced than it was for Saddam. And Assad has never been accused of genocide or the multiple (15 UN-documented) instances of WMD-use to wipe out entire communities of which Saddam was accused by HRW before 2003.

    And where’s Stop The War now that they’re actually needed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    If our Government "arms" somebody does that not mean that our taxes are being used to buy weapons so that one group of people kill another group?

    How else can they arm someone? Do any of us want to pay taxes to buy guns so that they can be used to shoot people our Govt. currently regard as the "baddies" but have previously supported?

    Have we not been here before?

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    so David Cameron thinks he is a world statesman, even though the problems at home mount, if my home had started to become dysfunctional I would put all my energy into sorting that out and not let one of my mates slip into the job I should have been doing, being asleep at the wheel is unforgivable Dave look over ones shoulder Boris is hovering


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