Skip to main content

Obama and Putin discuss Syria, other topics during two-hour talk

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:28 AM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
  • Iran and trade also are discussed by the two leaders
  • President Obama and Russian President Putin meet at the G-20 Summit
  • Obama says they agreed on a need to end the violence in Syria and prevent civil war
  • Putin says he and Obama found many "commonalities"

Los Cabos, Mexico (CNN) -- President Barack Obama said Monday that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the conflict in Syria and "agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war."

In comments to reporters after almost two hours of talks, Obama said he and Putin had "candid, thoughtful and thorough conversation" about various issues including Syria and Iran.

On Syria, Obama said he and Putin "pledged to work with other international actors including the United Nations" and its special envoy, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

G-20 to focus on Eurozone, Russia, Syria
Russia sends ship with weapons to Syria
U.N. suspends peace mission in Syria
UN: Violence inhibiting work in Syria

Syria exposes cool spots in U.S.-Russia ties

Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution on Syria pushed by the United States and other allies, and Moscow is accused of providing military aid to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. The Obama administration says al-Assad's days are numbered and a transition should be worked out to allow the Syrian people to choose their leaders.

Putin said the two leaders were "able to find many commonalities pertaining to all of those issues," but provided no details.

The meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, was the first time Obama and Putin held face-to-face talks since Putin returned to the president's office earlier this year. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Mike McFaul, described the leaders as "very businesslike, cordial."

McFaul told reporters about a third of the session was devoted to Syria, making it the biggest single topic. "The fact that the meeting went for two hours, that was because they were talking about Syria and they didn't want to stop talking about Syria," he said. "Both leaders, really, on both sides, wanted to make sure the other side of the table understood the true motivations for what they're trying to do and what they're trying not to do."

Putin thanked the United States for helping Russia join the World Trade Organization last December. Obama later said he would work with Congress to strengthen Russia's trade status with the United States, adding that the two nations will disagree on some issues and must "find constructive ways to manage through any bilateral tensions."

Earlier Monday, veteran Sen. John McCain said the Obama administration "in its desperation" appeared to be placing its hopes for a resolution in Syria on persuading Russia to push al-Assad from power.

"Russia is unlikely to ever support a policy of regime change in Syria," said McCain, R-Arizona, in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute.

McCain calls for U.S. military leadership on Syria

White House National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes said Obama reiterated U.S. concerns that continued Russian arms sales to Syria "only perpetuate the conflict" during the meeting in Mexico. He said Putin repeated the Russian position that those sales were part of "longstanding relationships unrelated to the current conflict" -- and he cautioned reporters against reading too much into the terse statement Putin gave afterward.

"When he feels like it was a bad meeting, he'll let you know at some length," Rhodes said.

Part of complete coverage on
CNN's Nic Robertson gets a rare opportunity to meet some of the protesters in Syria.
updated 5:48 PM EST, Tue January 17, 2012
CNN's Nic Robertson reports from a small town in Syria that is under siege and tempers are boiling.
updated 1:10 PM EST, Tue January 24, 2012
Syria has become increasingly polarized, says Nic Robertson. That leaves many in the middle who want change but don't want uncertainty.
updated 1:37 PM EST, Mon January 9, 2012
Ever since the Syrian unrest began 10 months ago, it has been difficult for the rest of the world to verify reports from inside the country.
updated 4:08 PM EST, Mon January 16, 2012
Fareed Zakaria interviews CNN's Nic Robertson after he gained rare access inside Syria.
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Tue October 16, 2012
Arab League monitors are attacked from both sides in the uprising in Syria. Exclusive report from Nic Robertson.
updated 6:50 PM EST, Thu January 19, 2012
CNN's Nic Robertson shows the challenges and violence Arab League monitors face everyday in Syria.
updated 5:15 PM EST, Wed January 18, 2012
Prices for goods skyrocket in Syria, including areas previously insulated from the unrest. CNN's Nic Robertson reports.
updated 7:43 PM EST, Fri January 13, 2012
Silence greeted CNN's Nic Robertson as he visited the tense city of Hama, Syria.
updated 8:51 PM EST, Thu January 12, 2012
CNN's Nic Robertson checks to see if authorities in Homs are complying with calls to abstain from violence.
updated 5:56 AM EST, Thu January 12, 2012
Nic Robertson reports on the circumstances surrounding the death of a French journalist in Homs.
updated 5:48 PM EST, Wed January 11, 2012
CNN's Nic Robertson gets a rare look inside Syria's violent and deadly uprising.