The G-8 summit meeting between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday night has been described in various media reports as “frosty” or “awkward” or “frigid”, but the White House called it “businesslike”.
NBC’s White House correspondent Chuck Todd, who is traveling with the president, reported the two leaders hit a stalemate on arming rebels. Plus, the idea of unseating Bashar al-Assad before pushing to get negotiation meetings in place in Geneva, with Putin demanding no preconditions and opposing a no-fly zone.
However, both sides say they will continue working on negotiations to stop the violence in Syria.
The three-day G-8 summit is being hosted at a resort in Ireland by UK Prime Minister David Cameron. G-8 is comprised of 8 industrialized countries, including Canada, France, United States, UK, Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia, with European Union representation.
Russia has been arming Assad’s soldiers and the Kremlin issued a statement ahead of the G-8 summit stating they aren’t convinced that Assad used chemical weapons as the US, France and Briton have claimed.
President Obama reluctantly agreed over the weekend to start sending military aid to Syrian rebels after the red-line of using chemical weapons was crossed by Assad. But final details of US military assistance have not been released by the White House.
Obama and Putin issued the following statements on Syria after their meeting:
PUTIN: “We also spoke about problem spots on the planet, including Syria. And, of course, our opinions do not coincide, but all of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria, to stop the growth of victims, and to solve the situation peacefully, including by bringing the parties to the negotiations table in Geneva. We agreed to push the parties to the negotiations table.”
OBAMA: “And with respect to Syria, we do have differing perspectives on the problem, but we share an interest in reducing the violence; securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they’re neither used nor are they subject to proliferation; and that we want to try to resolve the issue through political means, if possible. And so we have instructed our teams to continue to work on the potential of a Geneva follow-up to the first meeting.”
In addition, Obama and Putin expressed their cooperation in counter-terrorism endeavors, such as the Boston bombings in the US and a suicide bombing last month in the Russian Republic of Dagestan.
Furthermore, reportedly the vice presidents of both countries, Joe Biden and Dmitry Medvedev, will also be working together on defense, security and foreign affairs issues.
At the end of their summit discussion, Obama tried to lighten the mood with a joke concerning “Putin’s expertise in Judo and my declining skills in basketball.” Evidently, Obama implied that it takes longer to recover as more time goes by, but Putin, who isn’t known for having a jovial sense of humor deadpanned, “The president wants to relax me with his statement of age.”
Meanwhile, in related news Tuesday, Reuters reports evidence that Saudi Arabia has started arming Syrian rebels for the first time with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in their escalating showdown with Assad.
The full transcript of Obama and Putin’s statements from the White House can be read by clicking here.