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Cameron and Putin talk Syria

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday arrived in the Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks on Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid a new international push to find a way to end the two-year civil war.

‘The Syrian problem will be discussed,’ Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP, adding bilateral issues would also be on the agenda.

Cameron flew to Putin’s palm-dotted residence on the Black Sea before the British premier’s planned meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday.

‘There’s an urgent need to start a proper negotiation to force a political transition and to bring this conflict to an end,’ Cameron told the House of Commons on Wednesday. The war has cost an estimated 70,000 lives and displaced millions of people, including hundreds of thousands who have fled to neighbouring countries.

‘There is a growing body of limited but persuasive information showing that the regime has used and continues to use chemical weapons including sarin, and the room for doubt about this continues to diminish,’ Cameron said.

His high-profile visit is part of frantic diplomatic efforts to bring the warring sides in Syria to the negotiating table amid claims of the use of chemical weapons and increasing fears that the conflict would spill over Syria’s borders.  The talks with Putin come amid concerns that Russia may be preparing to sell Syria sophisticated surface-to-air missiles which will significantly strengthen its defences and complicate any foreign intervention.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that any such sale would be ‘potentially destabilising’ for the region.

Earlier this week, Russia and the United States offered to hold an international conference in search of peace in Syria.

The announcement came after two hours of talks between Putin and Kerry and a further three hours of talks between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov Thursday also hosted Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who had met Kerry earlier this week in Rome, and spoke by phone with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimiand UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

‘A focus was placed on the need to stop the bloodshed and to start talks between the government and all opposition groups as soon as possible,’ the Russian foreign ministry said, referring to Lavrov’s meeting with his Jordanian counterpart.
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