Speaking to reporters on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his support for Syria and confirmed having a “constructive” private meeting about Syria with President Obama at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg.
“Will we help Syria? Yes, we will,” Putin reportedly said. “We’re doing it right now, we’re supplying arms.”
According to the Associated Press, Putin also said he met with Obama privately for 20 or 30 minutes. The world leaders disagree about Syria, with Obama pushing for U.S. military intervention against President Bashar Assad following Aug. 21’s deadly apparent chemical attack. But Obama called the conversation “candid and constructive.”
The meeting comes after the White House cancelled a pre-G20 meeting with Putin following tension over human rights, missile defense, and Russia’s granting of asylum to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Obama said Snowden “did not come up” in Friday’s meeting.
Obama will address the nation on Tuesday about his request for congressional approval on Syria intervention, he said at G20.
“I did not put this before Congress just as a political ploy or as symbolism … If we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required, and that will not come through Security Council action,” Obama said, referring to some U.N. leaders’ belief that intervention in Syria is illegal without Security Council approval.
Also on Friday, the State Department ordered all nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Syria’s neighboring Lebanon.
“The situation remains tense, and sporadic violence involving Hezbollah or other extremist or criminal organizations remains a possibility in many areas of the country,” the department said.
UPDATE: From G20, French President Francois Hollande says he will wait for the U.N. inspectors’ report before intervening in Syria.
CBS News reports that a Putin-proposed Russian delegation’s trip to D.C. to change U.S. lawmakers’ minds on intervention has been cancelled.