British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the West is willing to compromise with Russian supremo Vladimir Putin in a bid to strike a deal that could help end the bloody Syrian civil war. However, the PM insists that leaders from the West are not being stubborn when they demand that current leader President Bashar al-Assad step down at the end of the peace process. Under the Assad regime, thousands of Syrians have lost their lives, and this is the main reason the West and Russia have been in disagreement over the years with Moscow not willing to displace the Syrian leader while the West calls for Assad’s removal, which officials believe will play a crucial role in bringing a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.
Cameron and the Russian president conducted a one-hour meeting, according to the BBC, at the G20 summit of the world’s leading economies in Antalya in southern Turkey. British sources claim that the talks proved to be very constructive and focused mainly on the Syrian peace process. During the meeting, Cameron is believed to have stressed the importance of settling the issue with a political regime.
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Another ISIS attempt foiled
The talks carry a lot of importance after U.K. security forces foiled another Islamic State Plot, according to The Guardian, on British soil – the seventh thwarted attack this year.
This was the first time the two leaders met face to face in the last 12 months, and Cameron was keen on getting his point across to Putin following the tragic attacks in Paris that claimed the lives of at least 129 people. Now Cameron is also being helped by U.S. President Barack Obama, who is also willing to reach a compromise with Putin in a deal that also protects Russian interests in the region. The British prime minister accepts that both the West and Russia have a different view of things but stated that the disagreements should not be as important as what is happening inside Syria while accepting that everyone will have to make a few compromises here and there.
Cameron said: “The disagreement has been that we think Assad should go at once and Russia obviously has taken a different view and we have to find a settlement where Assad leaves and there is a government that brings the country together. But we must not allow the gap there is between us to be the altar on which the country of Syria is slaughtered. That is the challenge. That is going to take compromises.”
Difference of opinion
In a interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, the British PM said that the only reason why the West is hesitant in keeping Assad in power is because the country’s ruler has killed his own countrymen, which is definitely a good enough reason for him to not to have any say on the country’s future.
“We are not just being stubborn here. We are not saying Assad cannot be part of the government of Syria because we said it and we are sticking to our position. It is a statement of fact rather than a statement of preference. This man has barrel-bombed his own population and slaughtered so many of his own countrymen. It is for them rather than for us that he cannot play a long-term role in running the country.”
Russia wary of ISIS threat
Russian President Vladimir Putin also seems to be looking at the bigger picture. Speaking to reporters before the meeting with Cameron, the Russian leader admitted that although Moscow and the West do not have the best of relations, the fact that all parties want peace to return to Syria shows that all major stakeholders need to join hands in a bid to counter terrorism.
“The recent tragic events in France show that we should join efforts in preventing terror. Unfortunately our bilateral relations are not of the best, but there is certain revival.”
Iran and Russia are both of the view that it is for the Syrian people to decide on their new leader, while the West argues that Assad should only stay on as part of the government on an interim basis which should not last longer than 18 months. In a recent meeting between the world powers held in Vienna, it was decided that various parties in Syria need to start talks early next year before elections take place in the country in 18 months. However, leaders were unable to reach an agreement on the long-term future of the Assad regime, and it remains to be seen whether Putin will ever endorse anything for Syria without Assad in it.
However, the most important facet of the agreement between the West and Putin could be on how to coordinate attacks on ISIS. Following the tragic downing of the Russian jet over the Sinai Peninsula last month, which resulted in the deaths of 200 Russian civilians (which Russia now accepts as a terrorist attack), Britain is hopeful that Putin will be forced to see that both he and the West have a common interest in the shape of eradicating ISIS’ influence in northern Syria and bringing in a newly elected government.