President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday pressed for a negotiated settlement in Syria, but acknowledged that diplomatic efforts to end more than two years of deadly violence might not be successful.
Speaking after a meeting at the White House, Cameron welcomed an agreement last week between Russia and the United States to try to bring Syria’s warring sides to the negotiating table, saying, “Syria's history is being written in the blood of her people, and it is happening on our watch.”
“There is now, I believe, common ground between the U.S., UK, Russia and many others,” Cameron told reporters. “Whatever our differences, we have the same aim: a stable, inclusive and peaceful Syria free from the scourge of extremism.”
At the same time, he said more needs to be done to support the opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Britain is pushing for greater flexibility in the European Union’s arms embargo and will double nonlethal support for the opposition -- including armored vehicles, body armor and generators -- in the coming year, Cameron said.
Obama said Russia has “an interest as well as an obligation to try to resolve this issue.” But he acknowledged that suspicions remain between Russia and the West, decades after the end of the Cold War.
Neither leader offered any insight into how they propose to overcome the differences between Assad, who has said he will not surrender the presidency, and the rebels, who have refused to negotiate with him. The U.S. and Britain have backed the rebels' call for Assad to step down, a position at odds with Russia.
“I'm not promising that it's going to be successful,” Obama said of efforts to get all sides to agree to a transitional government that can take over from Assad.
“Sometimes, once … the furies have been unleashed in a situation like we're seeing in Syria, it's very hard to put things back together,” he continued. “But it’s worth the effort.”