WASHINGTON, May 13 (RIA Novosti) – US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday urged Moscow to join an international effort to end the civil war in Syria, where more than 80,000 people have died and five million have been forced to flee their homes.
“As a leader on the world stage, Russia has an interest, as well as an obligation, to try to resolve this issue in a way that can lead to the kind of outcome that we’d all like to see over the long term,” namely of a stable government and a climate in Syria that does not foster extremism, Obama said at a joint White House news conference with Cameron after the two met.
“Syria’s history is being written in the blood of her people, and it’s happening on our watch,” said Cameron, who held what he called frank and “very good” talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Friday, just before traveling to Washington.
At the talks with Putin, Cameron said he saw signs that the Russian leader is willing to set aside differences with the West and “join an effort to achieve a political solution” in Syria.
“I have been very vocal in supporting the Syrian opposition, in saying Bashar al-Assad has to go, that he is not legitimate, and I continue to say that,” Cameron said.
“President Putin has taken a different point of view. But … it is in both our interests that, at the end of this, there is a stable democracy in Syria, a stable neighborhood, and that we don’t encourage the growth of violent extremism,” Cameron added.
“I think the Russian president, the American president and myself, we can all see that the current trajectory of how things are going is not in anybody’s interest,” he said.
Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov agreed to hold an international meeting on Syria that would include representatives from the Syrian government and the opposition.
The conference was initially expected to be arranged by the end of this month, but after Cameron held talks with Putin on Friday, a member of the Russian delegation said there were still too many differences of opinion over the format of the talks for anything to be up and running by the end of May. In particular, the Russian official wondered “which opposition” groups from Syria would be at the negotiations.
Russia has backed the Assad regime in the conflict, warning that some rebel movements fighting to oust the government in Damascus are backed by extremist groups, including al-Qaida.
Obama and Cameron both voiced support Monday for what they called the “moderate” opposition in Syria, with the British prime minister saying: “If we don’t work with the moderate opposition, we should not be surprised if the extremist side grows.”
The diplomatic ballet over Syria is set to continue this week, with Putin due to hold talks in Russia with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Kerry and Lavrov expected to meet on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting in Sweden, which gets under way Tuesday.