But what I've also said is that the United States can't get in the middle of somebody else's civil war. We're not going to put troops on the ground. We can't enforce militarily a settlement there. What we can do...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But in the past, you said he had to go.
OBAMA: What we can do -- what we can do is make sure that the worst weapons, the indiscriminate weapons that don't distinguish between a soldier and an infant, are not used. And if we get that accomplished, then we may also have a foundation to begin what has to be an international process in which Assad's sponsors, primarily Iran and Russia, recognize that this is terrible for the Syrian people, and they are willing to come in a serious way to arrive at some sort of political settlement that would deal with the underlying terrible conflict that's taking place.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you're-- and President Putin has become your unlikely partner--
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...in this. And, you know, even in this op-ed, which has stirred up a lot of controversy here in United States, he said, "There's every reason to believe that the rebels are the ones who used the chemical weapons." So does that tell you he's willing to lie to protect Assad?
OBAMA: Well, nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels were the perpetrators of this...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He wrote it in The New York Times.
OBAMA: Well, I understand. What I said is nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels perpetrated this attack.
Now what is true is that there are radical elements in the opposition, including folks who are affiliated with al-Qaeda, who, if they got their hands on chemical weapons, would have no compunction using them in Syria or outside of Syria.
And part of the reason why we've been so concerned about this chemical weapons-- issue is because we don't want those folks getting chemical weapons, anymore than we want Assad to have chemical weapons. And so the best solution is for us to get them out of there.
But with respect to Mr. Putin, I have said consistently that where the interest of the United States and Russia converge, we need to work together. And I had talked to Mr. Putin a year ago saying to him the United States and Russia should work together to deal with these chemical weapons stockpiles, and to work to try to bring about a political transition..
STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you trust...
OBAMA: ...inside of Syria.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...he has the same goal? Do you really trust that?
OBAMA: Oh, I don't think that Mr. Putin has the same values that we do. And I think obviously by protecting Mr. Assad he has a different attitude about the Assad regime.
But what I've also said to him directly is that we both have an interest in preventing chaos, we both have an interest in preventing terrorism. The situation in Syria right now is untenable. As long as Mr. Assad's in power, there is going to be some sort of conflict there, and that we should work together to try to find a way in which the interests of all the parties inside of Syria, the Alawites, the Sunnis, the Christians, that everybody is represented and that there is a way of bringing the temperature down so that -- that horrible things that are happening inside the country...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you...
OBAMA: ...are continuing to happen.