News / Middle East

Obama, Putin Fail to Resolve Differences on Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) walks past U.S. President Barack Obama (C) during a group photo at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg September 6, 2013.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) walks past U.S. President Barack Obama (C) during a group photo at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg September 6, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are still at odds over a potential strike on Syria, after discussing the issue on the sidelines of the G20 (Group of 20) economic summit in Russia.

At a Friday news conference, Obama said his conversation with Putin was "candid" and "constructive." But he added that he did not believe the talk would change Russia's opposition to any foreign military intervention in Syria.

Obama is trying to win international support for military action to punish Syria's government for an alleged chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people in August. The U.S. president said he would address the American people about the issue Tuesday night and continue to work with Congress on a resolution authorizing military action.

The president said most world leaders attending a G20 dinner late Thursday were "comfortable" with the U.S. conclusion that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack. He said the leaders were "unanimous" in believing that international norms against the use of chemical weapons had to be maintained.

President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 6, 2013.President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 6, 2013.
President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 6, 2013.
President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 6, 2013.
"Where there is a division has to do with the United Nations. There are a number of countries that just as a matter of principal believe that if military action is to be taken, it needs to go through the U.N. Security Council," said President Obama.

British Prime Minister David Cameron sided with Obama, saying there are times it may be necessary to act without approval from the Security Council.

"If we accept that the only way a response can be made to a country that, let's say, was massacring half or more than half its people, if we're saying there can only be a response if the U.N. Security Council votes positively, we are, in fact, contracting out our foreign policy, our morality to the potential of a Russian veto. Now I think that is a very misguided approach," said Cameron.

Putin said any foreign strike on Syria would be "illegal."  He said the chemical attack was a "provocation" by opposition fighters in Syria who are receiving foreign support.

Putin said leaders from India, Indonesia, South Africa and India were among those who spoke against any military intervention at the summit.

The Russian president said he feared that going into Syria would hurt the global economy by raising the price of energy and stifling global economic development.

“In such a difficult time in general for the world economy, to destabilize the situation in the Middle East is counterproductive. That’s at a minimum, I will say it very diplomatically," said Putin.

China and Russia have voted down Security Council resolutions that would have pressured the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In a joint statement issued by the White House Friday, the U.S. and 10 other G20 nations called for a strong international response to Syria's "grave violation" of international rules.

The statement says the Security Council has been "paralyzed" for over two years on Syria and the world can not wait for "endless failed processes."

France, which has been a strong supporter of military action against Syria, signaled hesitancy on Friday. At a G20 news conference, President Francois Hollande said his country would await the outcome of a U.N. chemical weapons team report on Syria before deciding on any action.

Obama returns to Washington Friday, where he is seeking to convince U.S. lawmakers to authorize Syria military action.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned world leaders at the summit against what he called "ill-considered" military strikes he said could worsen sectarian tensions in Syria.

Ban made his comments at a humanitarian meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Warning against "further militarization of the conflict,"  Ban said military strikes could have "tragic consequences" and lead to further sectarian violence.

The U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings for neighboring Lebanon and Turkey. The U.S. ordered non-emergency personnel and family members to leave embassies in both countries and has also warned U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the countries.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Europe Friday, where he will continue the administration's efforts to get international support for possible action against Syria. His trip includes talks with Arab League and European Union officials.

In a Friday opinion piece in the Huffington Post, Kerry said he planned to lay out evidence about the alleged attack and seek to "broaden support" for a limited military strike that would deter the Syrian government from future attacks.

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Comments page of 2
by: Eduardo from: Albuquerque
September 07, 2013 7:02 PM
Putin is concerned about the economy if Syria is attacked? He's confiscated a fortune is his country and that's all he's concerned about. He's also backing Assad for money and probably that he would also one day use chemical weapons on people in his country.

by: Ali from: Afghanistan
September 07, 2013 12:40 PM
I agree with attack in Syria,Becaues Iranian and Hezbula"sforces kill Syrian people.The regime of Assad is really tyrant.these days Iran Government send troops in Syria,all know this.

by: ali baba from: new york
September 06, 2013 3:38 PM
I hope that the congress have enough vote to stop the war in Syria. I find very hard to understand senator of Arizona who posses for fighting in the Arab world and cry very hard for Muslim brotherhood. united state is not the police man to discipline all the thugs in the world .

by: Tony Bellchambers from: London UK
September 06, 2013 12:02 PM
Listening to the impassioned pleas at the G20 conference today of both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron against the use of chemical weapons, it is inexplicable why they were both so silent when the Israeli army used white phosphorus AS A CHEMICAL WEAPON in Gaza, in 2008/9, when according to the UNHRC over 300 children under the age of 16 were killed by the IDF.

No legal or other action has been taken to date against Israel for what was clearly a war crime that violated the Geneva Conventions. Yet, it is now that very state, and its American lobby, AIPAC, that is driving the clamour for a cruise missile strike against Syria.

Let the world see both Syria and Israel brought before the International Criminal Court for war crimes against civilian populations.

by: Shiva from: Canada
September 06, 2013 11:14 AM
The US nuked Japan twice. The Sri Lankan regime slaughtered over 150,000 Eelam Tamils in a day and indiscriminately bombed designated "No Fire Zones" and massacred innocent civilians. When the genocide occurred, Obama was at the White House, Ban Ki-moon visited the war zone and both failed to act to mitigate loss of life.

UN has been failing on many global issues and the so called political leaders / collaborators joint the genocidal Sri Lankan regime that committed massacre of the Tamils in their homeland. Do we need a UN to witness genocide? Is US deal only to protect Caucasians and OIL nations?

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 06, 2013 10:42 AM
Exactly how the first and second attempts at having a global union that can ensure world peace failed. League of Nations, United Nations Organization, all is the same - useless. Why lay much emphasis on an organization that cannot represent itself when the need arises? What is the use of countries having representatives at the UN if all they get in return is civil service job? Why does the UN make laws and charters that it will not honor? Comes to its breaking point. The UN is no longer needed if is only a place where countries go to flex muscles rather than pursue courses and agenda for world peace, security of peoples and human rights. NO, the UN is no longer useful. It may not be necessarily to strike Syria, but it is its failure to show a coherent point of view in the face of a violation of its own set rule. To hell with the UN and its security council, it has become a terrorist council - insecurity council!

by: Shamful USA from: USA
September 06, 2013 10:34 AM
The U.S. Government Dropped Nuclear Bombs on Two Japanese Cities in 1945:
Although nuclear bombs may not be considered chemical weapons, I believe we can agree they belong to the same category. They certainly disperse an awful lot of deadly radioactive chemicals. They are every bit as horrifying as chemical weapons if not more, and by their very nature, suitable for only one purpose: wiping out an entire city full of civilians. It seems odd that the only regime to ever use one of these weapons of terror on other human beings has busied itself with the pretense of keeping the world safe from dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous governments.

by: Chao from: Peking
September 06, 2013 10:33 AM
The U.S. Military Killed Hundreds of Thousands of Japanese Civilians with Napalm from 1944 – 1945.
Napalm is a sticky and highly flammable gel which has been used as a weapon of terror by the U.S. military. In 1980, the UN declared the use of napalm on swaths of civilian population a war crime. That’s exactly what the U.S. military did in World War II, dropping enough napalm in one bombing raid on Tokyo to burn 100,000 people to death, injure a million more, and leave a million without homes in the single deadliest air raid of World War II.

by: Kerry from: D.C.
September 06, 2013 10:32 AM
The U.S. Military Littered Iraq with Toxic Depleted Uranium in 2003:
In Iraq, the U.S. military has littered the environment with thousands of tons of munitions made from depleted uranium, a toxic and radioactive nuclear waste product. As a result, more than half of babies born in Fallujah from 2007 – 2010 were born with birth defects. Some of these defects have never been seen before outside of textbooks with photos of babies born near nuclear tests in the Pacific. Cancer and infant mortality have also seen a dramatic rise in Iraq. According to Christopher Busby, the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, “These are weapons which have absolutely destroyed the genetic integrity of the population of Iraq.” After authoring two of four reports published in 2012 on the health crisis in Iraq, Busby described Fallujah as having, “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”

by: Shameful from: NYC
September 06, 2013 10:30 AM
The FBI Attacked Men, Women, and Children With Tear Gas in Waco in 1993.
At the infamous Waco siege of a peaceful community of Seventh Day Adventists, the FBI pumped tear gas into buildings knowing that women, children, and babies were inside. The tear gas was highly flammable and ignited, engulfing the buildings in flames and killing 49 men and women, and 27 children, including babies and toddlers. Remember, attacking an armed enemy soldier on a battlefield with tear gas is a war crime. What kind of crime is attacking a baby with tear gas?
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