U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, held “candid” talks Friday on Syria on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Russia.
However, the two leaders remained far apart in views about Syria after a 20-minute one-on-one talk following a tense group discussion on the civil war over dinner late on Thursday.
Both Obama and Putin hold opposing views on whether military action should be taken against the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people.
While the US believes that troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out a poisonous gas attack which killed over 1,400 people in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on August 21, Putin has maintained the attack was most likely carried out by the rebels in order to provoke outside military intervention against Assad.
“We hear one another, and understand the arguments but we don’t agree. I don’t agree with his arguments, he doesn’t agree with mine. But we hear them, try to analyze them,” the Russian President said after the meeting.
Obama too acknowledged that Putin was unlikely to shift his position on military action against Syria, but they could both agree to work toward a political resolution to the crisis.
The US President is seeking to rally domestic and international support for military strikes on Syria, while Putin, a determined ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has challenged the assertion that regime forces were behind the attacks.
The dispute over Syria has deepened strains in U.S.-Russian ties because of differences over human rights and Moscow’s hosting of Edward Snowden, a spy agency contractor who revealed details of U.S. surveillance programs.
Putin said Obama had not requested Snowden’s extradition on Friday, adding that it would be impossible anyway.