Despite having a different approach to Syria, Russia and UK share an interest in preserving the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, Vladimir Putin said after talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Sochi.
The negotiations at the Russian Black Sea resort, which will
host the Winter Olympics next year, were initiated by the British
PM and covered a range of political and economic issues, but it’s
the Syrian conflict, which topped the agenda.
According to Putin, the sides discussed the options for the positive development of the situation in the Middle Eastern state – where the civil war has been raging for more than two years – as well as “a number of joint steps” to settle the ongoing crisis.
The Russian president stressed that Moscow and London have “common interest in a speedy end to the violence, the launch of a peace process and the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
Cameron agreed that Russia and the UK have mutual goals, which are to “end the conflict, to stop Syria fragmenting, to let the Syrian people choose, who governs them and to prevent the growth of violent extremism.”
But the British PM added that there was “no secret” that the two sides still had “differing views on how best to handle this situation.”
London wants Syrian president, Bashar Assad, to step down and is pushing for a Syrian arm embargo to be lifted in order to supply weapons to the country’s rebels, despite Al Qaida associated Al-Nusra Front being among them.
On Thursday Cameron also accuses Assad’s troops of using chemical weapons, while the UN voiced concerns the attack came, on the contrary, from the rebels.
Moscow has spoken against any foreign help for either government or opposition forces in the country. Earlier on Friday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, had to address media speculation that Russia was going to sell s-300 air defense systems to Damascus, once again stressing that Russia only honors old contracts nearing completion and weapons they supply to Syria can only be used for defense.
Cameron has fully backed the idea of organizing international talks on Syria, which will include international mediators and representatives of both sides of the Syrian conflict.
The conference, which will most likely to take place by the end of the month to try to facilitate a solution to the Syrian crisis through political dialog, was agreed during Lavrov’s negotiations with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Moscow this week.
The head of the British government added the United Kingdom, Russia and the United States as permanent members of the UN Security Council should “drive this process to shape a transitional government” in of Syria based on the consent of the Syrian people.
After meeting Putin, Cameron will head to Washington where he’s scheduled to meet US president, Barack Obama.
Writer John Wight, who's been extensively covering the situation
in Syria, told RT that the West’s efforts to step up the peace
process in the country are explained by the recent military success
of the Assad’s army.
“It’s going to be a major problem [bringing the government and rebels behind the negotiations table] given that the opposition is now made of an Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat Al-Nusra, almost exclusively,” he said. “This gang of cutthroats has waged savage war on the country against the largely civilian population. It’ll be hard to consider that the Syrian people would be happy with their government talking to these people. Many of them are foreign fighters. They’ve come across the border from Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. It’ll be very difficult to see how that would fit with the Syrian people, given the nature of the struggle on the ground. We’ve now seen the Syrian national army enjoying some significant success in the last few weeks in taking back rebel-held areas of the country. I think this has produced panic, actually, in Washington, London and Paris, which is why David Cameron has been so keen to fly to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin.”