Syria crisis: Russia and US no closer


Mr Putin said a one-on-one meeting with Mr Obama had not changed his position on Syria

Speeches by key leaders at the end of the G20 summit in St Petersburg have laid bare the bitter divisions over possible military action in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin restated his opposition to any strike, saying it would destabilise the region.

US President Barack Obama said action was necessary in reaction to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

A joint statement from the US and 10 other nations called for a strong international response.

The US government accuses President Bashar al-Assad's forces of killing 1,429 people in a poison-gas attack in the Damascus suburbs on 21 August.

Mr Assad has blamed rebels for the attack.


After two days of talks, the most powerful countries in the world were still unable to speak with one voice on Syria. The French President Francois Hollande has been a stalwart supporter of taking action. UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have also both firmly been in favour of action on Syria, as have the Saudis, long opposed to President Assad.

But the G20 host, President Vladimir Putin, has proved a formidable opponent and his claim is that the balance of opinion was behind him. Among G20 nations, India, Argentina, South Africa and Russia's Security Council ally - China - are clearly against punitive strikes. Alongside them, others are also uneasy at military action without UN approval.

At his press conference, you could sense President Obama's emotion, exhaustion and frustration. For all the intense lobbying behind the scenes, where it seems David Cameron has been playing a key role, there is still more work to be done to build the international coalition that Mr Obama wants.

China and Russia, which have refused to agree to a UN Security Council resolution against Syria, insist any military action without the UN would be illegal.

Mr Putin said the discussions about Syria on Thursday evening had gone on well past midnight.

He added that he had had a one-to-one meeting with Mr Obama in which they had discussed Syria.

Both men had listened to the other's position but had not agreed, he said.

Mr Putin said he believed a majority of the populations in countries supporting military action were against it.

Meanwhile French President Francois Hollande, who has been a firm proponent of intervention, said he would await for a report from UN weapons inspectors before taking a decision on military action.

The inspectors' findings are not due to be made public until the week beginning 15 September - possibly even later.


Also speaking at the end of the summit, Mr Obama said there was a "unanimous" view that chemical weapons had been used in Syria.

Obama says he had a "candid and constructive conversation" with President Putin

He also said most leaders present at the summit thought it was most likely that the regime of Mr Assad was responsible.

Mr Obama argued action was required even when the Security Council was paralysed, as the international consensus against the use of chemical weapons had to be upheld.

However, Mr Putin described the use of chemical weapons as "a provocation on the part of the militants who are expecting to get support from outside".

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK had "made available additional evidence of cloth and soil samples which underline the now overwhelming picture of a war crime" on 21 August.

Mr Cameron said that, given the depth of international divisions, the "summit was never going to reach agreement".

Start Quote

To some, watching President Obama wrestling with difficult issues will make him a more authentic proponent of a tough choice. But it may not be the best frame of mind for a man who has to sell a plan like his whole reputation rests on it”

End Quote

But he added that if there were only a response to the crisis through the UN Security Council, that would mean the UK "contracting out its morality and foreign policy to the potential of a Russian veto".

While the UK, Canada and Turkey all support Mr Obama's call for action, the only leaders at the G20 meeting to commit to force in Syria are the US and France.

Correspondents in St Petersburg say opponents of US military intervention appear to far outnumber supporters within the G20.

A joint statement from the US, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the UK called for "a strong international response" over Syria.

Recognising that the UN Security Council had been paralysed over the issue, the statement added the "world cannot wait for endless failed processes that can only lead to increased suffering in Syria and regional instability".

What is the G20?

  • Formed in 1999, the "group of 20" comprises the 19 leading national economies, plus the EU
  • The 2008 financial crisis and the rapid rise of China, India and Brazil has led the G20 to replace the G8 as principal global economic forum
  • Leaders generally meet annually, with several other lower-level meetings each year

In his comments to reporters on Friday, Mr Obama did not make clear what he would do if the US Congress decided against military action in a vote expected next week.

A poll commissioned by the BBC and ABC News suggested more than one-third of Congress members were undecided whether or not to back military action - and a majority of those who had made a decision said they would vote against the president.

The US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that the US had "exhausted the alternatives" to military action.

She said that according to American estimates, the 21 August attack had "barely put a dent" in Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

Aid pledges

Also on Friday, the UN appealed for more aid for people in Syria, and also for the estimated two million Syrians who have fled their country.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the BBC that donor countries should "look again" at their contributions and be "as generous as they can".

David Cameron: "This summit was never going to reach agreement on what action was needed on Syria"

Mr Cameron announced on Friday that some countries at the G20 had agreed measures to speed up the delivery of aid, including lifting bureaucratic obstacles such as custom rules.

He said earlier that the UK would give an additional £52m ($80m) in aid for Syria - much of it for medical training and equipment to help civilians targeted by chemical attacks.

However, correspondents point out that the delivery of aid is complicated by the need to negotiate with armed groups on the ground.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Syria, rebels have withdrawn after briefly entering an ancient Christian town north of Damascus, the main opposition alliance has said.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) units captured military positions outside Maaloula after heavy clashes with government forces and militiamen on Thursday.

Also on Friday, the US embassy in Lebanon said that it would be evacuating its non-essential staff.

The move was prompted by "threats to US mission facilities and personnel," a statement said. The US Consulate General in the Turkish city of Adana is also withdrawing non-essential staff.


More on This Story

Syria's war War in Syria

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    I think the U.N. should declare war on the United States for depleted Uranium in Iraq and spying on the entire world. The cowards won't even admit to it and that's been proven by science and massive birth defects.

    And I am still convinced the U.S. and their FSA army committed this sarin attack, as the ones before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    The civil war in Syria has gone on too long and become messy but people have forgotten that the Assad family have been in power for decades where they have abused the human rights of the Syrian people causing them to rise up against his dictatorship.

    He is a bad man and should be stopped.

    According to Wiki, he has $1.5bn, which is held in Russia, Hong Kong and offshore tax havens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Could Al-Qaeda have as much if not more to gain from the terrible sarin attack than Assad; to make the US and allies hop skip and jump to their murderous tune. Calling the tune is something Al-Qaeda is particularly good at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    #200 Macdoogal

    "Your quite correct - if we are in the UN we have to accept the rules."

    --add the EU to that -- both organizations were formed for peaceful purposes.

    --and both the UK attempts to undermine --with claims of ´Sovereignty´.

    --the very thing both organizations were formed to CONTROL !

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    It's a shame a vote of no confidence re Russia & for that fact China can't be held in the UN. i'm not saying we should bomb Syria - but we should do SOMETHING to help the civilians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Just stay out. I don't trust the Americans or the Israelis

    I don't trust the Americans


    You're much better trusting the Russians who are scrupulous in upholding international laws.

    We know Assad had a seat at the UN human rights council, so he's also peace, love, flowers & human rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    It's obvious that Putin is being unmutual regarding Syria because he wants complete autonomy to do as he pleases within Russia - no outside intervention. If he supports a strike on Syria then that will mean his actions inside Russia will also be subject to international scrutiny; and a megalomaniacal autocrat just can't allow that, can he . . .

  • Comment number 259.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.


    The worst thing we can do is get involved by any means, Military or Aid.

    Lets keep out, we have done our share of being the worlds police force time for other countries to take over and see if they can do a better job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Russia was our solid Ally in defeating the scourge of Nazism. Look at the dead. Corporate America only became involved when the Japanese hit back at them, other wise they would have stayed out. Leave Corporate America and Nobel peace prize winner Obama to their own devices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Where is the clear, indisputable evidence that it was President Assad and his forces that released the chemical weapon in Damascus in the week the UN weapons inspectors were there. Injuring many of his own soldiers as well. If there's any doubt about that then the West should keep it to humanitarian aid. Period.
    Or... is it just about regime change again? Like Iraq.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    @41. You can give Putin all the evidence in the world, but if Putin is not interested in truth, then we are all wasting our time.

    What evidence is that then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Are yo just mis-informed or are you from US
    Have a good day now
    (ps -, Since year 2000 you have bombed Libya, Aghanistan, Iraq,Panama and Pakistan,please isn't that enough killing??please leave Syria alone - unlike you'r 350 year history, they are an ancient people with centuries of culture. You have your rap music and McDonalds

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    It's really a surprise that the so called super power nations like the UK, USA, France never think of peace when there is civil war in other countries. They sell arms to rebels all over the world just to create problems for the people. We must look at Iraq, and other Arab countries. Enough is enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    If in doubt, ask Tony Blair what we should do. Then do the opposite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    It was the CIA backed rebels who in fact used chemical weapons on the 23rd of August and in previous incidents, even Turkey admitted they had found rebels in possession of Sarin in march. This war isn't about protecting Syrians, the majority of which don't want US intervention, its about getting to Iran and western domination over the middle east in general. google " A clean break " policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Have they found barrels of chemicals with "Made in New Jersey" or "منتج من Leberkusen" or "Made in Cheshire" ?

    Pure hypocrisy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Putin is often held up as a figure of ridicule. He's the only one there making any sense!

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    If the USA bombs and kills people - they call it 'doing the right thing'

    If anyone else does it it's terrorism.


  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Quite extraordinary hoe Obama set out to use the economic conference as a forum for his misplaced Syrian strategy, but understandable when we realise all he really cares about is his "legacy" . A pity he does nt give as much attention to the economy as he does to this lost cause


Page 19 of 32


More Middle East stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.