President Obama and Russian President Putin called today for an end to the escalating violence in Syria and endorsed a political solution, but offered no details about a path forward.
“We agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war,” Obama told reporters.
The two presidents met for close to two hours on the margins of the G20 Summit and were visibly cold toward each other during the brief photo-op that followed, as Putin sat scowling alongside a subdued Obama.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul later pushed back against the notion that their body language indicated tension, describing their interaction as “businesslike” and saying it was “nothing extraordinary” for Putin.
In their first meeting since Putin returned to the presidency, the leaders “pledged to work with other international actors including the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and all the interested parties in trying to find a resolution to this problem,” Obama said.
Despite issuing a joint statement calling for violence to stop immediately, the leaders were silent when it came to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and whether he should step down. Obama is seeking Moscow’s help to resolve the crisis in the conflicted country, but Russia has so far refused to turn its back on its ally.
White House officials stressed that progress could be seen in Putin’s embracing of a political solution to the conflict.
“From my perspective, we’ve been able to find many commonalities pertaining to all of those issues,” Putin said of the situation in Syria.
– Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce