Obama and Putin Admit to Differences on Syria, but Share 'United' Goal of Ending Violence

Russia said on sidelines of G-8 that it would prevent no-fly zone in Syria, to which U.S. said such option not on table at NATO.

Obama and Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. June 17th, 2013.
Obama and Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. AP

U.S.President Barack Obama and RussianPresident Vladimir Putin held a tense meeting on Monday, where they both admitted to differing views on the war in Syria but said they shared an interest instopping violence and ensuring chemical weapons were not used.

Speaking to reporters during a meeting at a G-8 summit in Northern Ireland, Obama said the two leaders had instructed their teams to work on a peace conference about Syria in Geneva.

Obama also said he and Putin expressed cautious optimism aboutthe ability to move forward on a dialogue with Iran after amoderate cleric was elected president there.

Putin, meanwhile, said both he and Obama wanted the bloodshed in Syria to stop and the warring parties brought to the negotiating table.

"Our positions do not fully coincide, but we are united by the common intention to end the violence, to stop the number of victims increasing in Syria, to resolve the problems by peaceful means, including the Geneva talks," Putin said.

Looking tense and staring mostly at the floor alongside Obama, Putin added: "We agreed to push the process of peace talks and encourage the parties to sit down at the negotiation table, organize the talks in Geneva."

Earlier Monday, Russia declared that it would not permit such a no fly-zone to be imposed over Syria, to which the United States responded that is was not asking NATO to back such a move.

"We are not pushing for a no-fly zone at NATO," outgoing U.S. ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said in response to questions after his farewell speech in Brussels, adding that the issue is not currently on the alliance's agenda

As of today, he said: "the issue of a no-fly zone is not on the table at NATO. Whether it will [be] tomorrow or some other day, I don't know, but it isn't there yet. It isn't, as far as I know, on the table of any NATO member, including, so far the United States."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a news briefing on Monday that calls for a no-fly zone showed disrespect for international law and would not be tolerated.

"I think we fundamentally will not allow this scenario," Lukashevich said Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, did not want a scenario in Syria that resembled the events in Libya after the imposition of a no-fly zone which enabled NATO aircraft to help rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

Western leaders, meanwhile, criticized Putin for supporting Syria's Bashar Assad in his battle to crush a two-year-old uprising, setting the stage for what could be a difficult meeting of world leaders over Monday and Tuesday.