Will Presidents Obama and Putin find a UN Security Council resolution they can both live with?
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As often happens at G20 summits, the major diplomatic action in Los Cabos is taking place not in plenary sessions devoted to the world economy, but in discreet conversations between world leaders. Witness the bilateral meeting yesterday between presidents Obama and Putin over the deteriorating situation in Syria. That conversation suggested the outlines of a potential breakthrough, as both sides stare into the abyss of an all-out Syrian civil war. In their closing statement, Obama and Putin committed to the common goal of a "political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system that would be implemented by the Syrians themselves." Making tangible progress toward this objective will require restraint on the part of the Obama administration, and the stomach to grant Putin the outsized diplomatic role he craves as mediator.
Since the Assad regime began its bloody crackdown more than a year ago, Washington and Moscow have remained far apart. The Obama administration has repeatedly sought strong UN Security Council (UNSC) condemnation and sanctions against the Syrian government for atrocities that now transcend Muammar al-Qaddafi's transgressions in Libya. Senior U.S. officials, from Obama on down, have made it clear that Assad must go, only to be stymied by Moscow, determined to shield its most important client state and diplomatic foothold in the Middle East, which besides being a loyal arms customer, hosts Russia's only naval base in the Mediterranean.