June 19, 2012 / 10:48 PM / 5 years ago

Putin no longer backs Syria's Assad: Cameron

LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear during talks this week that he does not want President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power in Syria any longer, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday.

Russia has been the staunchest backer of Assad and his military crackdown against militants and protesters in Syria, including supplying arms to the Syrian government. The United Nations estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed in 15 months of violence and unrest.

But Cameron said Putin had shifted his view of the Syrian leader during talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders at a Group of 20 summit in Mexico, and that discussions were now focused on a transition.

“There remain differences over sequencing and the shape of how the transition takes place but it is welcome that President Putin has been explicit that he does not want Assad remaining in charge in Syria,” Cameron told reporters.

“What we need next is an agreement on a transitional leadership which can move Syria to a democratic future that protects the rights of all its communities.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Cameron were present with Obama for the talks with Putin.

Cameron criticized countries such as Russia that continue to supply arms to the Syrian government, and said efforts would be stepped up to enforce an EU arms embargo and to prevent shipments of weaponry to Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

“Syria is descending rapidly into a bloody and tragic civil war with potentially irreparable consequences for its people and its future,” Cameron said.

“It makes no sense for any country to be supplying arms to a regime that is killing its own people with mortars, snipers and attack helicopters,” he said, adding that the EU was working closely with other countries and companies to stem the flow.

Cameron warned that time was running out to put a stop to the violence in Syria, which shows scarce sign of stemming.

“There is little time left to resolve this, but we do now have clear agreement on the key principles, on the risks to Syria, on the need to stop the violence and the urgency of political transition,” he said.

Reporting by Luke Baker; Editing by Kieran Murray

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