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”

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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

    Comment number 606.

    The usual set of warmongers including all the Labour MPs who went along with Blair and his backing of Bush along with the American electorate that supported Bush's phoney war that produced real death are suddenly using "cost" and "evidence" when they had no such problems ten plus years ago. Hypocrisy much methinks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Putin is the only world leader talking sense, even Obama knows it.

    He is squirming under pressure from the AEI and Israeli lobby to set the scene for an Iranian invasion.

    When he lowers his eyes and talks about the killing of women and children think of the "collateral" damage he is planning to inflict.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Jimmy Carter calls for Syria peace summit
    Urges against military response without U.N. mandate
    Calls to Congress 499 to 1 against Syria war
    The people revolt: Americans tell 24 lawmakers 'no' to military action - Keep contacting your REP
    Syrian Christian pleading with McCain to change his stance
    Lets see Democracy in US as we saw in UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    ..There is a third option; using the weapons inspectors again to go in and actually find the chemical weapons

    They've been there (numerous times) done that, been shot at & got the T-Shirt

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.


    "voice of Britain speaks aking us to ignore the chemical attacks and the slaughtered children"

    It's for the best - sometimes the most moral act is not to act and do precisely nothing, especially if it makes things worse

    "Anyway it is now time for the football"

    Much more worthwhile

    "Get a conscience"

    Get a brain! This compassion-gone-mental group think is mere self-defeating stupidity

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    Cameron called it a summit. I thought it was a trade meeting. And the view on WHO used the chemical weapons (or if things just got out of hand) is far from unanimous. Chemical weapons seems to have been the triggered excuse for regime change. Cameron has embarrassed himself because he is not standing behind the will of the British people on invasion. What does he hope will replace Assad?

  • Comment number 600.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    So... Obama and his mates resort to yet more emotional blackmail to push their evil agenda! Though, it would appear that most can now see through the smoke and mirrors! That said; best don your tin hat folks... never underestimate a desperate psychopath as they are capable of absolutely anything... even another evil orchestrated false flag event! The truth will out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    NPR (National Public Radio USA)

    AIPAC -Israel´s lobby in America, is putting massive pressure on Congress and Senate members to vote FOR an attack against Syria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    What about other dictators in the region. Rich Middle east countries will foot the bill of aerial attack, is it is disgraceful the way Putin is described as fox media if words of war going on others may be described as chimp, cross eyed ogre or hyena, the media should be more respectful and not forgetting the picture of dogs barking at naked Iraqi prisoners with US guard standing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    Russia's biggest defeat was the Cold War.

    It Bankrupted itself building a Navy that was at least twenty years behind that of it's opponents and building massive numbers of low quality pane, Tanks and Artillery.

    The only reason it does diplomacy nowadays is it can't do anything else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    2 Minutes ago


    Didn't the Americans use gas on the Vietnamese in the 70's and made their kiddy's have three Arms?

    Don't like double standards, sorry!
    The British army used gas in world war 1 - so are you saying we can't be against chemical weapons now either?

    US used gas against civilians and Freedom fighters
    UK was only against Solders...

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    Why would anyone listen to the propaganda of a news network that protects child molesters, lies about its sources and pays off its failed execs with thousands of pounds of license fee money? Its easy ignore the BBC and its pro government drivel (scared of losing the gravy train that the tories are threatining to cut). No one is swallowing your BS BBC, ask the US for funding or the "Rebels".

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    Bet if Mr Assad grew a big beard and wore a dress he'd soon get bombed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    If you want a descent news then go to RT NEWS. Far better than the BBC government mouth piece.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    It is estimated that between 2004 and 2013, CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed up to 3,460 people - although this figure will not include the very latest strikes.About 890 of them were civilians and the vast majority of strikes were carried out by the Obama administration, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Cut off all military supplies to both sides, but deliver humanitarian aid by force if necessary... no pussyfooting around, make it clear to both sides that if they interfere with or hinder humanitarian aid those doing so will be shot. Push for full ceasefire and negotiations, maybe the UN will eventually do its job and sanction a peacekeeping force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    Syria is a mess with neither side holding the moral high ground. It's best to keep out and what will be will be. Obama has painted himself into an unnecessary corner. Congress may yet allow him to escape as so many Republicans and indeed Democrats loathe him and welcome he opportunity to humiliate the President. The USA & Russia are not miles apart. Neither want a regime collapse/chaos. Talk!

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    573. nicktecky
    As a Brit, It gives me unutterable pride to know that a tiny part of my license fee goes to the World Service.
    Hope you enjoy watching it and the adverts in HD, us licence fee players have to watch the news in SD.


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