US President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he was pleased that Russian President Vladimir Putin had taken responsibility for his “client,” — Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Obama also denied in an interview on ABC News that he had been outfoxed by Putin in accepting a deal to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, after stepping back from the use of US military force.
“I welcome him being involved. I welcome him saying, ‘I will take responsibility for pushing my client, the Assad regime– to deal with these chemical weapons,’ Obama told the ABC News program “This Week.”
Obama deflected criticisms that he had been outflanked by Putin, with whom he has sharp disagreements on many issues, using former president Ronald Reagan’s old dictum for dealing with the Soviet Union: “trust but verify.”
“Mr Putin and I have strong disagreements on a whole range of issues,” Obama said.
“But I can talk to him. We have worked together on important issues.”
“I know that sometimes this gets framed … through the lens of the US versus Russia.
“But that’s not what this is about.
“What this is about is how do we make sure that we don’t have the worst weapons in the hands, either of a murderous regime, or in the alternative, some elements of the opposition — that are as opposed to the United States as they are to Assad.”
The interview was recorded before the full details of a deal between the United States and Russia reached in Geneva became clear.
The ambitious plan to dismantle and destroy Syria’s chemical arms stockpile by mid-2014 was thrashed out during three days of talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
The accord announced Saturday gives Assad a week to hand over details of his regime’s arsenal of the internationally banned arms in order to avert unspecified sanctions and the threat of US-led military strikes.
It also specifies there must be immediate access for arms control experts and that inspections of what the US says are 45 sites linked to the Syrian chemical weapons programme must be completed by November.