DENPASAR (Indonesia), October 8 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed his US counterpart Tuesday for undertaking what he said were actions that have helped avert a tragedy in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
The remarks come against the backdrop of ongoing efforts to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a move brokered by Moscow and supported by the United States that forestalled a planned US-led bombing campaign against President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Speaking to journalists after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on the Indonesian island of Bali, Putin said that while he and US President Barack Obama remained divided on the Syrian issue, they shared common goals.
These are “to democratize the situation, to create conditions under which all people living on this territory – people of different religions, ethnic groups – can live together in peace,” Putin said.
The civil war in Syria, which has to date claimed over 100,000 lives, was among the issues discussed by the Putin and the US Secretary of State John Kerry in Bali.
The Obama administration accuses Assad’s regime being behind an August 21 poison gas attack outside Damascus that Washington says left more than 1,400 dead. US officials produced evidence they said supported their account and attempted to rally international support for a military strike against the Syrian regime.
Putin has said the Russian government has evidence showing the attack was likely carried out by Syrian rebels seeking to provoke outside military intervention against government forces. No specific evidence to support this claim has been made public.
The US decided to step back from pursuing the option of a military strike with the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption of a resolution supporting a plan to decommission Syria’s chemical weapons stock.
Putin on Tuesday welcomed the Assad government’s cooperation with the international team of chemical weapons experts currently dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
"The Syrian government has swung into action, acting very transparently and assisting international organizations. I hope that this work will continue to proceed with the same pace and in the same spirit,” Putin said.
Putin said more nations should join the Syrian peace process at the forthcoming international conference expected to be held in Geneva in November.
Indonesia, the host nation of this APEC summit, is a “large Islamic state” and it would be “natural” for it to join, Putin said.
An international conference, a successor to last year’s meeting in Geneva, was announced by top diplomats of Russia and the US in May.
Reluctance among the various representatives of Syria’s fragmented opposition to participate has so far proved the main stumbling block to the Geneva-2 summit, which is intended to bring the Syrian government and rebel forces to the negotiating table.