Oliver Wright — The Independent June 16, 2013
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, rounded on Britain on Sunday, accusing David Cameron of betraying humanitarian values by supporting Syrian rebels with “blood on their hands”.
In harsh and undiplomatic language, Mr Putin accused the UK and other Western powers of attempting to arm rebels who “kill their enemies and eat their organs”. He insisted that Russia would continue to arm what he said was the recognised “legitimate government” in Syria and called on other countries to respect the same rules.
Mr Putin’s comments, ahead of Monday’s G8 summit in Northern Ireland, suggest that earlier British hopes of a softening of Russia’s position on Syria were misplaced. After around an hour of bilateral talks with David Cameron in Downing Street, Mr Putin’s spokesman told The Independent that the two sides remained as far apart as ever.
“There are very serious disagreements in terms of who is guilty and who is to blame,” he said. Asked what the impact of the American decision to arm Syrian rebels would be on potential peace talks, he added: “It makes it harder.”
In a press conference after the talks, Mr Cameron admitted that “President Putin and I have our disagreements on some of the issues”, but insisted the G8 could bring “new momentum and leadership” to start negotiations in Syria.
“What I take from our conversation today is that we can overcome differences if we recognise that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people choose who governs them and to take the fight to the extremists,” he said.
“If we leave Syria to be fought over between a murderous dictator and violent extremists we will all pay the price,” he added.
But when Mr Putin was asked by British journalists about comments by Mr Cameron last year – that those supporting President Assad had the blood of Syrian children on their hands – he reacted angrily. He said: “One does not need to support 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?