In their first meeting following renewed tensions between the U.S. and Russia, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin called Monday for an end to the violence in Syria and said there’s still time for diplomacy to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
As world leaders gathered for the two-day Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, much of the focus was on the European economic crisis, which could deflate Mr. Obama’s re-election hopes.
But in the most anticipated meeting of the day, Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama agreed on the need to end the violence in Syria, although Mr. Putin didn’t elaborate in his remarks to reporters, saying only, “[W]e’ve been able to find many commonalities” on issues including “the Syrian affair.”
The two presidents met in a two-hour, closed-door session as the Kremlin prepared to dispatch ships and marines to Syria and a few weeks after Mr. Putin snubbed Mr. Obama by skipping an international conference at Camp David.
Mr. Obama said they pledged to work with the United Nations and other parties to stop the killings of civilians.
“We agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war and the kind of horrific deaths that we’ve seen over the last several weeks,” Mr. Obama said.
As the U.S. leader spoke, Mr. Putin was biting his lip and staring at the floor.
The Obama administration last week accused Moscow of contributing to the Syrian government’s slaying of pro-democracy protesters by selling military helicopters to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Blistering McCain speech
On Monday in Washington, Sen. John McCain again criticized the Obama administration on Syria and Russia, accusing the Kremlin of helping Syria commit atrocities against civilians and assailing the White House for what he said was its failure to lead on Syria.
“To say they are ‘leading from behind’ is too generous,” the Arizona Republican said at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. “That suggests they are leading. They are just behind.”
However, the senator said, Russia is “unlikely to ever support a policy of regime change in Syria.”
The Kremlin’s decades-long relationship with Damascus goes back to the communist era, when the Soviet Union armed Syria as an anti-Israel and anti-U.S. proxy and used the Arab country to funnel weapons and money to terrorist groups.
Even today, without that ideological aim, Russia still sees Syrian weapons sales and contracting as a major source of revenue, still has its only Mediterranean naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, and still views Syria as its stage from which to influence Middle East politics and maintain the Kremlin’s great-power status.
Mr. McCain noted Monday that Russia had dispatched two warships and a unit of marines to secure its Tartus base and was delivering anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to help Mr. Assad. “Clearly, this is not a fair fight,” he said.View Entire Story
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Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at email@example.com.
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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