LONDON — The leaders of Britain and Russia said Sunday they're hopeful that Syria's warring factions can hammer out their differences at forthcoming peace talks tentatively planned for July in Geneva.
Speaking at British Prime Minister's David Cameron's Downing Street office, Russian President Vladimir Putin said both nations are still pressing for talks between representatives of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad and the rebel movement that seeks to drive him from power.
Asked whether the proposed "no fly zone" or moves by Western powers to funnel weapons to Syria's rebels had sabotaged the peace talks, Putin said no.
"I don't think that the idea of the conference is buried for good," he said. "This is one of the most reasonable and acceptable ways of solving this problem. Only by joint efforts is it possible to definitively settle the problem and persuade the warring sides to sit down for talks."
Last week, the White House announced the Obama administration has agreed, after months of hesitation, to start supplying the rebels with upgraded military aid. Russia and European powers, including Britain and France, are at loggerheads over the issue of supplying arms to the different sides of the Syrian conflict, with Russia sending weapons to Assad's military, while reacting angrily to any move by Western nations to do the same to his opponents.
Putin defended the distinction Sunday, saying that Russia was providing arms "to the legitimate government of Syria in full conformity with the norms of international law."