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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Putin, Obama Urge Syria Peace But no Deal on Assad

RIA Novosti

10:39 19/06/2012 MOSCOW, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama made a joint call on Tuesday for an immediate cessation of the violence in Syria, but their appeal included no new proposals for achieving it.

In a joint statement following their first meeting since Putin re-took office last month, the two leaders said the Syrian people should "independently and democratically" be allowed to determine their own future. The appeal made no mention, however, of the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Washington wants to see depart, and Russia continues to supply with weapons.

"In order to to stop the the bloodshed in Syria, we call for an immediate cessation of the violence and express full support for the efforts of the UN and Arab states joint special envoy Kofi Annan, including on moving forward on political transition to a democratic pluralist political system that would be implemented by the Syrians themselves in the framework of Syrian sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity," they said after a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Behind the consensual statement, however, the two leaders offered little sign of narrowing their differences on how to actually resolve the 15-month-old crisis that the United Nations estimates say has resulted in more than 12,000 deaths.

Russia - along with China - has twice vetoed United Nations resolutions against Syria over what it says is a pro-rebel bias. Moscow has also made it clear that it will not sanction the kind of Western military intervention in the country that helped overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Moscow has, however, fully backed Annan's plan, which calls for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from urban areas and a ceasefire to end the spiraling violence there. At least 94 people were killed across Syria on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Putin was particularly tight-lipped after the two-hour meeting with Obama on Tuesday.

Speaking through an interpreter, he described his discussions with the U.S. leader as "meaningful and subject-oriented," and said the two nations had found "many commonalities" on Syria.

The U.S. has publicly condemned Russia for what it sees as the Kremlin's shielding of Syria, a long-time arms customer and regional ally.

But a White House spokesman said the disagreements over Syria should not "overwhelm" the areas of common interest between Russian and the U.S.

These include expanding trade and investment between the two nations and continuing discussions on U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Europe, spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

However, political transition in Syria "needs to include Bashar al-Assad stepping down from power," Carney insisted.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Russia had no special interest in seeing Assad remain in power. He also said that continuing weapons deliveries to Syria were of an "exclusively" defensive nature.

Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported over the weekend that two Russian amphibious assault ships were preparing to set sail for the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia has its only naval base outside the former Soviet Union, possibly to evacuate Russian nationals in Assad falls. Russian officials have not verified the claims.

The U.S. and Russian leaders also said on Tuesday that Iran must make "serious efforts" to restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of its disputed uranium enrichment activities, which Washington and its allies fear are part of a nuclear weapons program.

On North Korea, the two leaders pledged to continue efforts to achieve de-nuclearization on the Korean peninsula and warned Pyongyang against escalating tensions in the area.



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