Putin says not ‘alone’ on Syria

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Anna Arutunyan – June 19, 2013) Russian President Vladimir Putin bristled over claims that he alone was opposing seven world leaders over how to deal with the Syria conflict during the G8 Summit this week in Northern Ireland.

Asked by a reporter if he felt “lonely,” Putin said: “Of course not. That’s absolutely not true. Somebody, apparently, wants that to be the case.

“Somebody agreed, someone argued. But it was never the case that Russia was alone in defending its approaches to solving the Syria problem,” he said during a televised press conference Tuesday evening in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland.

Putin was reported to be “isolated” on the Syrian issue, according to news reports that came out during the G8 Summit on Tuesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said ahead of the two-day summit, which began Monday, that Russia was going against all the other members of the group.

“I don’t think we should fool ourselves. This is G7 plus one,” he said on Sunday in comments carried by Canadian news site CBC.ca.

Harper said that Russia, unlike the rest of the G8, was backing Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is embroiled in a civil war with an insurgency comprising armed Islamists and secular opposition forces. Over 90,000 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in 2011, according to UN estimates.

“We in the [W]est have a very different perspective on this situation. Mr. Putin and his government are supporting the thugs of the Assad regime for their own reasons that I do not think are justifiable, and Mr. Putin knows my view on that. We’re not going to get a common position with him at the G8,” CBC.ca cited Harper as saying.

The Syrian conflict took center stage during a meeting between Putin and US President Barack Obama, with Putin admitting differences of opinion on the issue.

The United States intends to increase support for the Syrian opposition, including military aid. Russia has insisted that that outside interference in the conflict could lead to extremist elements seizing power in Syria. Russia has opposed the West’s view that a political resolution to the conflict could only happen with Syrian President Bashar Assad stepping down.

Putin defended Russia’s position after a meeting with UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday.

“One does not really need to support people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies and eat their internal organs in front of the public and cameras,” Putin during a press conference on Sunday, referring to an incident last month when a Syrian rebel was videotaped eating the heart of a dead soldier. “You want to supply weapons to these people? But then that, apparently, has nothing to do with the humanitarian values that Europe has upheld for hundreds of years.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Putin and Harper had “sorted out the misunderstandings” over Russia’s role in the G8 at a personal meeting during the summit, RIA Novosti reported.

Putin on Tuesday also announced that the next G8 summit would take place in the southern Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi in June 2014. “The Group of Eight summit I have invited my counterparts to will be held on June 4-5, 2014, in Sochi,” RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying.