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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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Moneil from: Canada
September 06, 2013 10:29 AM
Police Fired Tear Gas at Occupy Protesters in 2011: The savage violence of the police against Occupy protesters in 2011 was well documented, and included the use of tear gas and other chemical irritants. Tear gas is prohibited for use against enemy soldiers in battle by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Can’t police give civilian protesters in Oakland, California the same courtesy and protection that international law requires for enemy soldiers on a battlefield?

by: Kay from: Michigan
September 06, 2013 10:28 AM
The Army Tested Chemicals on Residents of Poor, Black St. Louis Neighborhoods in The 1950s......

In the early 1950s, the Army set up motorized blowers on top of residential high-rises in low-income, mostly black St. Louis neighborhoods, including areas where as much as 70% of the residents were children under 12. The government told residents that it was experimenting with a smokescreen to protect the city from Russian attacks, but it was actually pumping the air full of hundreds of pounds of finely powdered zinc cadmium sulfide. The government admits that there was a second ingredient in the chemical powder, but whether or not that ingredient was radioactive remains classified. Of course it does. Since the tests, an alarming number of the area’s residents have developed cancer. In 1955, Doris Spates was born in one of the buildings the Army used to fill the air with chemicals from 1953 – 1954. Her father died inexplicably that same year, she has seen four siblings die from cancer, and Doris herself is a survivor of cervical cancer.
Comments page of 2

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