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Obama, Putin call for "cessation of violence" in Syria


(CBS News) President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday released a joint statement calling for "an immediate cessation of all violence" in Syria, endorsing a political transition to democracy in the conflicted country.

(Listen to CBS News Radio White House correspondent Peter Maer report on the meeting at left.)

The statement came after the two leaders met at the Group of 20 economic meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico. Following the meeting, Mr. Obama said, "We in fact did have a candid, thoughtful and thorough conversation on a whole range of bilateral and international issues." Mr. Obama added that he and Putin agreed "that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war" in Syria.


Mr. Obama and Putin said in their joint statement that they "express full support for the efforts of UN/League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, including moving forward on political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system that would be implemented by the Syrians themselves in the framework of Syria's sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity."

The joint statement released made no mention of the tension between the U.S. and Russia over Syria. Russia -- seen as a key player with Syria -- has blocked two U.N. Security council resolutions calling for tougher action there. And just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Russia was continuing to send arms to Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has cracked down on political protesters in his country with violent force for 15 months. The opposition says more than 14,000 people have died since the uprising began.

The meeting was the first between Mr. Obama and Putin since the Russian leader returned to the presidency there. In addition to Syria, they talked about Iran's nuclear ambitions, the START nuclear treaty, trade relations and other issues.

With respect to Iran, Mr. Obama said the two agreed that there is "still time and space to resolve diplomatically" the issue of Iran's nuclear weapons and the peaceful use of nuclear power.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that there will be "areas of disagreement" between the U.S. and Russia, but said the two nations can build on their recent successes such as the START treaty.

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