Obama, Putin to meet next week to discuss Syria, Afghanistan

Obama will meet his Russian counterpart Putin on the sidelines of the G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland during which the two leaders are expected to discuss Syria and Afghanistan, besides other critical issues.

Updated: Jun 15, 2013, 10:38 AM IST

Washington: US President Barack Obama will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland on Monday during which the two leaders are expected to discuss Syria and Afghanistan, besides other critical issues.

This would be the first bilateral meeting between the two leaders after both returned to office.

"They clearly have a very broad agenda to discuss. That will include the situation in Syria. That will include Afghanistan, where Russia has cooperated with us in securing both our transit routes for our troops and also promoting stability in the region," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters at a White House news conference.

"It will include nuclear weapons, arms control, missile defense and the security issues that we very regularly discuss with Russia. We`ll also discuss issues related to counter- terrorism cooperation, as well as deepening our economic and commercial ties between our two nations," he said yesterday.
He said it is in Russia`s interest to join international community in putting presser on the Assad regime in Syria.

"It is (in) Russia`s interest to join us in applying pressure on Bashar al-Assad to come to the table in a way that relinquishes his power and his standing in Syria, because we don`t see any scenario where he restores his legitimacy to lead the country," he said.

"So we`re fundamentally making an interest-based argument to the Russians that they can best protect their interests by being a part of a political settlement that is real and that enables a transition away from Assad`s rule but preserves some elements of the institutions of the state, preserves some elements of the regime, but respects the rights of the Syrian people and brings in the opposition, who we believe speaks for the majority of the country," Rhodes said.

The meeting between Obama and Putin comes days after the US president`s announcement to send military support to rebels fighting the Syrian government.

In his meetings with other G-8 leaders, Rhodes said, Obama would discuss the type of aid that the international community should provide to the Syrian rebel.

"I think the President will definitely be discussing the types of aid and assistance that we provide into Syria. In particular, the countries that work with us on that are our European allies, and the French and the British have been the most prominent in that regard. So I think he`ll be discussing it broadly," Rhodes said.

Rhodes said the US continues to discuss with the Russians whether there is a way to bring together elements of the regime and the opposition to achieve a political settlement.

"There are no illusions that that`s going to be easy. We still have a difference with the Russians, for instance, on the fact that we believe Assad would have to leave power as a part of the process. But we`ll continue those talks," he said.

"Frankly, the type of relationship we have with the Russians is such that even as we have disagreements, and even strong disagreements in some areas, we want to work together on issues where we do have convergence of interest," he said.