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 464.

    That'll do it! Go Cameron the Russians have no choice but to give into you given your exhalted moral stature. Putin has heard this singsong before from Blair about Iraq and those ever ellusive WMDs that were only in the clouds. Obama could no longer retreat from his 'red line' stupidy. Israel wants the US to remake the entire middle east for it and the UK gets suckered behind the US as usual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    443.Rebecca Riot
    "There is only one way for Putin and Russia to go?
    Stop fueling the conflict by supplying weapons to the Assad regime."
    Being morally consistent, you of course oppose any similar assistance to the Cannibals, ahem, I mean the "Rebels"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    @450 Walshingham


    I recognise this bit of plagarism! Isn't this an official coalition government policy response to the voice of the people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    I think that Mr Putin is very much chief problem here? He could pull plug on Assad overnight? Order him to retreat to Russia, content to live on his stolen fortune.

    Assad & his London wife have amassed huge amounts of Syrian money in Russian Bank Accounts over last 30 years. Far more than they need to live comfortable life.

    So what is he still fighting about. Pride & pomposity? Male ego??

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    rebecca wrote:
    "Does Mr Putin really want to end up in the International Court alongside Assad? That is the way he is going at the moment"

    This sentiment got a smile out of me. Innocence has a beauty, even when hostile.

    Rebecca, although I share your devotion to law in a professional sense, I'm not sure the officers of the international criminal court have the means to nick Putin. He packs heat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    The terrorist have won
    they set out to spread fear,knock down the freedoms gained from noble free people,their most dangerous weapon has been the government of those free people,who spread fear & division & renounce those freedoms that made us noble & free

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    Putin is a sly toerag all nice talk, but is as devious as the worst. He's not looking for peace in Syria, he's looking to keep what little influence Russia has left in the Middle East. He'll now be trying to get into bed with Iran again, as relation with them careened somewhat under Ahmadinejad, but then the two of them were of the same cloth, "Trust-less". As long as Assad remains, deadlock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Quickest way to stop the sunni/shea sectarian war is to send in Western troops. Nothing like a common enemy to unite to warring factions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    And what does the man who played the life of God thinks? That I wanted to die for them (:

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Cameron will never getting arming these rebels through the commons public opinion is totally against it. His MP's will hopefully bring him & Hague to their senses & he will tell the US they are on their own this one way ticket to a regional war that will spill into Turkey 20m Alevis 20m Kurds, Iraq Shia majority & Kurds, Lebanon explosive population mix. Keep the UK out of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    We are making so many cuts to our own forces that will put our own security in doubt, so just where are we to get the funds to arm every tom, dick and harry, especially when we don't know where said weapons will end up. By all means give humanitarian aid, that is right thing to do, no further involvement should be taken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    Another poster has pointed out the Russian approach @411 - whether we agree with it is another matter.
    If we do invade and "liberate" Syria - what next? Another post war continuation of hell on earth like Iraq?
    Do you differentiate between the morals and intentions of the Russians and Americans? If so why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    "It is right to send a very clear message to Assad...." Interesting how politicians are always sending each other 'clear' messages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Many people say, understandably, that the situation in Syria is of no concern of the 'West' and we should simply supply humanitarian aid .I do not particularly support the rebels but I fail to see how ANY civilised person or country can stand idly by IF Assad is using chemical weapons against his people. That sort of behaviour cannot be allowed to go on (IF it's true) but the solution is not easy.

  • Comment number 450.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    445.Tarka Dal
    Just now
    @ 428. CURTAINS 2012
    There is no such thing as Freedom today!


    E.G. your freedom to post that comment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Judging by the numbers of Syrians willing to fight for the present Government, it's more popular than the UK Government. Also it's been known since the start of the troubles that foreign fighters against the Syrian Government were there and supported by foreign countries, notably Qatar and Saudi Arabia. But why does the Western news make a bigger story out of foreigners on the Government side?

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.


    Your partial quote @301:
    "279.Sally says you are free
    If we do as Tony Blair today cries: "Intervene", it'll add to my frustration of living in a country without a Constitution,"

    My actual text @279:
    "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."

    *Miss a bit?

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    It would be nice to replace all war-mongering male politicians and heads of state with women. Apparently, according to research, woman make better leaders and would frown upon war, arms, and corruption.

    An all-woman UK Government - now that would be interesting...

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    @ 428. CURTAINS 2012
    There is no such thing as Freedom today!


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