Russia, U.K. Planning Joint Steps Toward Syria Peace

Russia and the U.K. are planning joint steps to bring peace to Syria, where a civil war has claimed more than 70,000 lives since 2011, President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister David Cameron said.

The two leaders agreed during “substantive and purposeful” discussions in the southern Russian resort of Sochi today to work together at the United Nations on the development of a transitional government to take over from President Bashar al-Assad, Cameron told reporters at a joint news conference.

“We have a common interest in putting an immediate end to violence in that country and launching a peace settlement preserving Syria as an integral and sovereign state,” Putin said. “On the initiative of the British prime minister we discussed a number of possible steps and options to resolve the crisis.”

Russia has vetoed three draft UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian government’s crackdown on opponents and threatening to impose economic sanctions. Russia argued the opposition was equally to blame for the violence and that Western powers were seeking a Libya-style regime change.

Cameron, who said he “strongly” supports a peace conference proposed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said Britain and Russia share the same “fundamental aims” of bringing an end to the conflict, avoiding the break-up of Syria and stopping violent extremism.

Driving Process

“The president and I have agreed that as permanent members of the UN we must help drive this process,” Cameron said. “Working with partners in the region and beyond, not just bringing the regime and opposition together at one negotiating table, but Britain, Russia, America and other countries helping shape a transitional government that all Syrians can trust to protect them.”

There’s “movement toward another forum with the participation of the legitimate authorities and the opposition” following today’s talks, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters in Sochi.

In Washington, Kerry said the U.S. and other nations “owe the world the best effort possible” to end bloodshed and find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict.

“If the political willpower is there and shared, and if people are prepared to compromise reasonably, there is a path forward,” Kerry said today in an online chat on a Google Inc. website.

If a peace conference is held, Kerry said it “will be very clear to everybody who is prepared to be reasonable and who is not prepared to be reasonable.”

Syrians must be “willing to compromise” in choosing the members of a transitional government, which must then offer a “fair choice about who their leader is going to be,” Kerry said.