STOCKHOLM, September 4 (RIA Novosti) – US President Barack Obama said Wednesday he would continue trying to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to back Washington’s push for military intervention in Syria despite the “wall” between them on that issue at present.
“Do I hold out hope that Mr. Putin may change his position on some of these issues?” Obama said at a news conference in the Swedish capital. “I’m always hopeful and I will continue to engage him.”
“I think that international action would be much more effective and, ultimately, we can end deaths much more rapidly if Russia takes a different approach” on Syria.
Obama, making a stop in Stockholm on his way to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg hosted by Putin, said Russia and the United States were working together in pursuit of many common interests but also had stark differences on Syria and other issues and stated Moscow and Washington should “not sugarcoat” them.
“We’ve kind of hit a wall in terms of additional progress” in improving US-Russian ties, Obama said.
Obama last month cancelled a bilateral summit with Putin that was to have taken place ahead of the G20 meeting which starts Thursday. But officials in both Moscow and Washington have said the two men may discuss the Syria crisis face to face “on the sidelines” of the G20 gathering in St. Petersburg.
Obama admitted that the United States, like Russia, had “concerns” about some elements of the Syrian armed opposition and, like Russia, was interested in preserving Syria’s territorial integrity as its two-year civil war grinds on.
But, diverging from his moves to take military action in Syria in response to the recent apparent use of chemical weapons there, Obama said Syria needed a “political transition” because its president, Bashar Assad, could no longer be treated as legitimate.
“So far, at least, Mr. Putin has rejected that logic,” he said.
Moscow, which has a naval base in Syria and long-standing ties with the Assad regime, has consistently stated that its opposition to foreign military intervention in Syria is not based on defense of Assad but on defense of the principle that such action can occur only if approved by the UN Security Council.
Obama said the United States had repeatedly taken its case for action against Syria to the UN Security Council but complained that Washington’s effort with that body “has been resisted by Russia.”
And, echoing arguments made by several of his predecessors in the White House for US military intervention in conflicts around the world without UN approval, Obama compared Syria to wars in Kosovo and Rwanda where past US leaders argued for US military intervention independent of anything the world body decided.
The UN Security Council, where Russia and China are among the five permanent members and have the power to block resolutions calling for intervention in Syria proposed by the United States and its two allies, Britain and France, “may be paralyzed, for a whole host of reasons,” Obama said.
He spoke just hours after publication of an interview Putin gave to Russian television and the Associated Press in which the Russian leader said he would “not rule out” backing military intervention in Syria if he saw proof that Assad’s forces perpetrated the attack with chemical weapons as Washington asserts.
But Putin warned that any such outside military intervention in Syria at this time without the approval of the UN Security Council would constitute an illegal “aggression.”