Putin, Obama to battle over Syria at G8 Summit
Putin and Obama shake hands. (Al Bawaba file photo)
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U.S. President Barack Obama will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday as both sides offer support to rival forces in the Syrian civil war.
After Washington signaled that it would start arming vetted rebels fighting the Syrian government, Obama will confront Putin at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in their first private face-to-face meeting in a year.
Putin on Sunday criticized the West’s decision to begin arming the rebels, who he said eat human organs. He was referring to a video in which a Syrian rebel leader appeared to eat the heart of a regime solider.
“I think you will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies and eat their organs,” he said.
On Thursday, the White House said it will provide military assistance to the opposition after it ascertained that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against the Syrian people and crossed what Obama had called a “red line”.
However, both U.S. and Russia support peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the rebel coalition.
Washington covets a change of strategy from Putin, who has long backed President Bashar al-Assad, despite Obama’s constant demand that the Syrian embattled leader step down.
“We still continue 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,” Ben Rhodes, a deputy U.S. national security advisor, told AFP. “There are no illusions that that’s going to be easy.”
The Syrian government troops backed by militia from the Lebanese Shiite group, Hezbollah, and Iran have scored successes against the rebels in the strategic town of Qusayr.
Observers mull that the Russian leader will not accept to change strategy in the wake of these battlefield gains.
The two-year Syrian conflict has started as a protest against Assad but morphed into a civil war. The U.N. estimates that the Syrian conflict has killed at least 93,000 people.