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U.S., Russia able to overcome differences on Syria by "minimum consensus"


09:18, June 18, 2013

DAMASCUS, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Despite disagreements on the Syrian crisis, the United States and Russia are expected to reach at least "minimum consensus" on ways to overcome the obstacles facing the Geneva peace conference likely to take place in July, analysts said.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are meeting Monday on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Northern Ireland and the Syrian issue will top their discussions, observers said.


Syrian analysts agreed that the two leaders' meeting will address the United States' discontent with the involvement of the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group in the Syria's fighting, Russian 's rejection of the recent U.S. decision to render qualitative weapons to the rebels on the ground and the U.S. report that implicated the Syrian government of the usage of chemical weapons.

Safwan Akkash, a leading opposition figure, told Xinhua that Washington sees the involvement of Hezbollah in Syria's war as " game changer" as the militant group had largely helped the Syrian army to regain the strategic rebel stronghold of al-Qussair in central Syria.

After the sweeping victories of the Syrian army on several fronts, the rebels pleaded for help from their Western patrons and warned if the West does not send heavy weapons, they would surely lose their position at the possible future negotiations.

Washington was quick to respond to the rebels' request. U.S. President Obama agreed Thursday to render weapons to the rebels on ground, but under the pretext of helping the rebels to counter the Syrian army's use of chemical weapons, such as agent sarin.

The White House on Thursday concluded in a statement that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against rebels in a move that signaled deeper U.S. interference in the Syrian conflict.

Russia, Syria's main ally, rejected the U.S. decision to arm the rebels and Putin referred such a move as arming on "cannibals. "

Speaking on the eve of the G8 summit at a joint press conference with Britain's David Cameron, Putin said "I think you will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines, in front of the public and cameras."

"Are these the people you want to support? Is it them who you want to supply with weapons?" he asked.

Russia has also rejected as "fabricated" the recent U.S. report on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government and said that the military aid to the rebels would escalate the violence.

"Information about the use by (Syrian President Bashar) Assad of chemical weapons has been fabricated in the same place as the lies about (Saddam) Hussein's weapons of mass destruction," Alexei Pushkov, the head of the Russian foreign policy committee in the lower chamber of parliament, said Friday.


Maher Morhej, a moderate opposition figure and head of the local Youth Party, told Xinhua that Obama and Putin are also expected to discuss some less important details, such as the Syrian government and the opposition parties' representation at the Geneva peace conference.

The Syrian government said it had chosen its "official" delegation to Geneva as the opposition groups have yet to come together to entrust a delegation to the much-anticipated conference.

Weather the decisions that emerged from the conference should be binding under the UN charter is likely to be tackled, Morhej said, adding that the mechanisms of holding the conference and its date would also be discussed.

Yet, both analysts agreed that despite the many difficulties and details, the conference would be held and both the government and the opposition will participate in it.

"There is no turning back, because turning back means canceling the Geneva conference and escalating the situation toward a fully- fledged war," Morhej said.

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