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.

Analysis

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.

'Provocation'

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”

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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.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 446.

    BeachyHed

    So what's your take on US unmanned drones killing innocent men/women/children in Pakistan for the last THREE years?

    Or is that ok?

    Thisisin't about Syria, it's the changing of the guard superpower wise, US cedes, Russia/China become empowered.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 445.

    I'm not surprised Russia'a position is doubtless based on utter selfishness, and out governments the same. Blair is still posing and preening with the rest of them (on the international stage!).

    Astonishing thing is if you read Blair's analysis it is at times factually incorrect and based on wrong analysis. Thinks war will help reduce extremism! Can you vote for leaders that shallow and posing?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 444.

    Western leaders seem to be forgetting that the nations and people they represent have signed up to the UN its rules of armed conflict.

    To characterize a vote against war as a failure of the process itself is both banal and puerile. The US demands, it does not vote and accept the outcome.

    To renege on the signed bond of nations, in full view of history and all nation, is a deeply criminal act.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 443.

    Precariat

    Plus If you want news go to -RT
    --

    I have visted Russia Today in the past, although I had to double check as at first I thought I was on a joke site.

    You accuse the BBC of bias yet RT is full of utterly nonsensical conspiracy theories about Israel being behind the Syria crises masqerading as news articles.

    It really is the most ridiculous 'serious' news site I've ever seen.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 442.

    Remember when the UN fought in Korea to prevent the country from being over run by Chinese communists? Whatever happened to that UN to turn it into the toothless talking shop it is today? Remember Ruanda, Bosnia and now Syria and ask yourselves where is the UN?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 441.

    This is about the 15th HYS on Syria in the past week. How many more do we need?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 440.

    David Camerson simply does not understand the mood of the UK people. We are not interested in any more foreign intervention follies, defending "red lines" in the sand or boosting the political ego of our PM. As a consequence of this recession and our experiences in Iraq we know we can no longer afford the costs nor the casualties. Time the PM and that phony Tony Blair got the message.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 439.

    The problem is that the more the USA engages aggressive action the more people will justify attacks on it. Now I opposed utterly the horror of 9-11. But if the USA attacks instead of engaging in diplomacy then it will make actions like 9-11 appear more justifiable. Indeed if America does go ahead with military action, Wall street the financiers of war and poverty should be legitimate targets.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 438.

    398.RYGnotB wrote:

    389. Phil
    Putin is supplying arms to Syria - I think by condemning him and stopping him from doing that would help the people of Syria

    Agreed... but who has enough political clout to actually do that? And who's to say that a country like China won't enter more into the fray and decide to grab something for themselves by offering to supply Syria with weapons?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 437.

    Give it up the UK does not want another war no matter how much the leaders rant. WE dont trust you anymore. One dodgy dossier was enough now you have no credibility. Show us the proof beyond any shadow of a doubt. Even then let the UN deal with it thats what there there for.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 436.

    421.
    Precariat
    Just now

    Putin Nuke America, They need it for all the American Indians they killed.


    Do you realise what you have said, how close we came to a nuclear war when JFK turned back Soviet ships en-route to Cuba. If the USA deployed nukes there would be no Russia, no Europe, no Middle East you must be a complete idiot to think that Russia could overthrow the US get a life !

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 435.

    At the end of the day each person has to consult his/her conscience and ask the simple question:

    "Is it acceptable to allow innocent people - regardless of where they live - to be gassed and burned alive by chemical and incendiary weapons?"

    If it's acceptable then there is no need to take action.

    if it's unacceptable then there is a responsibility to take action.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 434.

    403. Paul
    >"Seriously... Reasonable? Define Propaganda. So if a man wears a pink shirt or two women kiss is that "propaganda"."

    Gay propaganda is something that promotes homosexuality, wearing a pink shirt doesn't promote homosexuality, and those two women should keep it in the bedroom.

    >"What ever happened to "freedom for all or freedom for no one"?"

    What happened to morals?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 433.

    Where is an independent, trusted, international investigative body that can make the determination as to which party in the Syrian conflict actually launched those chemical weapons? The UN's mandate was never to determine who used CW - merely to confirm they were used.

    My fear is that the "truth" will only become revealed AFTER bombs have fallen.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 432.

    If Obama goes ahead and bombs Syria without UN authorisation he should be stripped of noble peace prize, and then be tried as a war a criminal.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 431.

    It is not the USA's place to fix the mideast in this case, everyone has left, where is the Arab league? where are the other countries from Europe who up to a month ago were so strong on pushing armed response? - all gone.
    now a push for the united states to step in? Yes Assad was no prince- but the country was more western than most in the region. what will replace it? A Somalia? an Libya? Iran?

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 430.

    I think whatever the case in Syria, the world can no more afford wars. Firstly all the countries stress on the Syria's government to find out who is responsible for such action, after that shows strict response to Syria, not by war, by sanctions, by banning and much more, but please avoid wars.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 429.

    The US complains about Russia using its veto on the UN Security Council. Excuse me, but just how many times has the US used its veto when charges have been brought against Israel for violating peace treaties by building on occupied lands? What's good for the goose...

  • Comment number 428.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 427.

    @Jack Napier 321
    On the plus side unlike Putin's,all Obamas political enemies are not in prison,exiled or dead from polonium poisoning
    have you forgotten
    Snowden
    Manning
    John P. Wheeler II
    Dr. Jeffrey Gardner, Swan Doctor
    Gareth Williams

    everyone is as bad as each other .

    but Syria is a tipping point - no more regime change it does not work

    time for reflection more dead soldiers civilians

 

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