Obama, Putin say Syria violence must end, no plan agreed upon

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have previously been at odds over how to resolve the crisis in Syria. (Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin urged on Monday an immediate end to violence in Syria.

But there was little sign they had agreed a way to end the conflict which international monitors say has now cost more than 14,400 lives.

In a joint statement following their first meeting since Putin returned to the presidency, they said they shared a belief that Syrians should determine their own future.

The two countries have been at odds over how to resolve the crisis. The statement by both powers was made as Russia reportedly prepared to send two warships with marines to its naval base in Syria where U.N. monitors have suspended their patrols because of escalating violence.

“In order to stop the bloodshed in Syria, we call for an immediate cessation of all violence,” the two leaders said in a statement after meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.

“We are united in the belief that the Syrian people should have the opportunity to independently and democratically choose their own future,” the leaders said.

Obama said he and Putin had pledged to work with “other international actors, including the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and all interested parties” to try to find a solution to the Syria crisis.

Putin said the two countries had found “many common points” on the 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The United States has voiced frustration at Russia’s blocking of U.N. Security Council moves against Assad. The head of the U.N. mission in Syria is to brief the Security Council on Tuesday on the deteriorating conflict.

The United States, Britain and France are working on a new U.N. Council resolution in which they want to threaten sanctions against Assad. But Russia, Syria’s main international ally, and China have already blocked two resolutions which just hinted at measures.

A British marine insurer, meanwhile, said it had canceled cover for a Russian ship, the MV Alaed, following reports it was carrying Mi-25 helicopter gunships destined for Syria.

“We have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage,” Standard Club said.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the ship was stopped off the coast of Scotland.

Moscow news reports, meanwhile, said Russia is preparing to send two amphibious assault ships and marines to the Syrian port of Tartus where Russia has a naval base to ensure the safety of its nationals.

U.S.-led air war?

Senator John McCain, who was defeated in 2008 by Barack Obama in his bid for the White House, accused the U.S. president on Monday of failing to exercise leadership in the crisis and said Washington should rally a coalition that would conduct an air war in support of the rebels.

McCain renewed said Assad’s forces are increasingly deploying attack helicopters against rebels.

Regime infantry and snipers have given way to tanks, artillery and attack helicopters as Assad seeks to crush the uprising, McCain said in a speech at a Washington think tank, the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

“We are now seeing a rapid increase in Assad’s use of helicopter gunships,” he said.

“Whereas his forces once sought to clear and hold ground, they now appear to be under orders just to kill anyone and everyone they deem a threat.

“There’s every reason to believe that Assad will continue to escalate the violence, more massacres, more use of helicopters, and perhaps worse weapons after that,” he said.

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