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British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses US President Barack Obama in a White House press conference. Photo: Reuters

Cameron, Obama vow to end bloodshed in Syria

US and UK leaders vow to exert pressure on Assad and work with Russia to end bloodshed

Barack Obama

The United States and Britain yesterday pledged to forge ahead with diplomatic efforts to end the civil war in Syria, saying they had found common ground with Russia on how to proceed.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to increase pressure on the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, and insisted that he could not be part of a democratic transition.

"Syria's history is being written in the blood of her people, and it is happening on our watch," Cameron said alongside Obama after talks in the White House's Oval Office.

"The world urgently needs to come together to bring the killing to an end. None of us have any interest in seeing more lives lost, in seeing chemical weapons used."

The world urgently needs to come together to bring the killing to an end. None of us have any interest in seeing more lives lost, in seeing chemical weapons used
British Prime Minister David Cameron

Cameron, fresh from a trip to Russia, one of Assad's few remaining backers, said he believed Washington, London and Moscow had found "common ground" on the crisis.

Obama agreed, saying Russia had an "interest as well as an obligation" to resolve the crisis.

"If in fact we can broker a peaceful political transition that leads not only to Assad's departure but a state in Syria that is still intact (...) and that ends the bloodshed, stabilizes the situation, that's not just going to be good for us - that will be good for everybody," the US leader said.

Ahead of the talks, Cameron told National Public Radio that US Secretary of State John Kerry made a "real breakthrough" in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin "when they agreed to an American-Russia peace conference."

The British leader also said that Putin was "keen now to move from the generalities of having a peace conference to talking through the specifics of how we can make (this) work."

Obama has resisted directly arming the Syrian opposition but - with reports that Syria has used chemical weapons, which would cross a US a "red line" - is coming under increasing pressure at home and abroad to do so.

Yesterday, he said: "We will continue work to establish facts around the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and those facts will help guide our next steps."

The American president also offered support to Cameron, who is facing a damaging revolt over European Union membership in his ruling Conservative party .

Obama urged Britons to watch whether EU reforms were successful before deciding whether to leave the bloc, backing Cameron's stance.

Cameron is trying to unite his party after two cabinet ministers suggested they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum were held today.

"I will say this, that David's basic point that you probably want to see if you can fix what's broken in a very important relationship before you break it off makes some sense to me," Obama said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Cameron and Obama tackle crisis in Syria