Putin and Obama meet on Syria, reach little common ground

McClatchy Foreign StaffSeptember 6, 2013 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said today he and President Barack Obama talked Syria today at an unexpected encounter, but that neither side blinked: "We stuck to our guns," Putin told reporters Friday at a closing press conference, describing the meeting, nevertheless as "very friendly."

Putin -- who opposes Obama's push for military intervention in Syria -- said neither he nor Obama changed their positions, but he offered "we understand each other, we listen to each other, we do not agree."

But, he added, they did agree to keep their foreign ministers -- in Obama's case Secretary of State John Kerry, talking.

Putin disputed that his dinner guests were split over the White House's push for military intervention in Syria, saying only the U.S., France, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Turkey backed the move. He said British Prime Minister David Cameron supported it, but his Parliment does not and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is "cautious."

And he added, "who was opposing and condemning: Russia, India, Indonesia, China, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Italy... and also the Secretary General of the UN voiced his protest against, and let us not forget the address of the pope."

Putin said the meeting -- which the White House confirmed occurred today -- lasted about 20 minutes and that Syria was the sole topic. The issue of intelligence leaker Edward Snowden -- who was granted temporary asylym in Russia wasn't broached, he said.

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