Wednesday 21 February 2018

Obama and Putin ‘no closer’ on Syria after intensive meeting at G20

Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past US President Barack Obama as they arrive for the family picture event during the G20 summit in St.Petersburg
Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past US President Barack Obama as they arrive for the family picture event during the G20 summit in St.Petersburg

Steve Gutterman

PRESIDENT Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for 20 minutes on the sidelines of a G20 summit today but remained at odds over the conflict in Syria.

"They sat down before today's working session, in armchairs, and had a 20-minute chat, one on one," said Putin’s senior foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov.

He said Syria was the main topic and said: "No, their (positions) have not come closer."

Russia and the international peace envoy for Syria have warned that US military action would be illegal without UN Security Council approval and would undermine the chances for a political solution to the conflict.

Remarks by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, after a meeting with ministers from several other G20 states, added to pressure on President Obama to refrain from ordering strikes.

"International law says that no country is allowed to take the law into their hands - they have to go through the Security Council," Brahimi said in a joint appearance with Lavrov after the talks.

Lavrov said that "a clear understanding is taking shape among many responsible states that the use of force, bypassing the Security Council, would essentially put an end to efforts to reach a political settlement and convene an international conference."

Russia and the United States announced in May that they would try to bring the Syrian government and opposition together at a peace conference known as Geneva 2, but Brahimi also said military action would hurt the chances of it ever happening.

"Geneva 2 now is in danger because of the events of August 21 and what may follow," Brahimi said of an alleged chemical weapons attack, which the United States blames on government forces, and the possibility of punitive military strikes.

Reuters

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