Britain's Cameron Sees 'A Real Breakthrough' On Syria

NPR icon by Mark Memmott
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Nikolsky Alexei

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry "made a real breakthrough" last week in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they agreed there will be an American-Russian peace conference on Syria, British Prime Minister David Cameron told NPR on Monday.

Russia has continued to support Syrian President Bashar Assad through the past two years of fighting in Syria, which has left an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 people dead. Britain, the U.S. and other nations have been calling for Assad to step aside and trying to bring economic and other pressure to bear on his regime.

But while differences remain between Russia and the West, Cameron told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, the plan for a peace conference underscores that all sides "have an interest in a peaceful, stable Syria."

And Cameron believes that Putin "is keen now to move from the generalities of having a peace conference to talking through the specifics of how we make this [a transition of power in Syria] work."

Cameron is in Washington, D.C, where he'll meet with President Obama on Monday.

Will Putin be able to help push Assad into peace talks? "That is the $60 million question," Cameron conceded. "The sense I have is that ... we still have an open and public difference about Assad. I think he is completely illegitimate because of what he has done to his people. He has to go. President Putin takes a different view. While there is that difference, there is still this recognition that we need to have a talks process that could bring about a transitional government in Syria."

Cameron met with Putin last week.

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