ST. PETERSBURG, Russia —
The countries signing the statement with the U.S. were Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Putin said the U.S. push for military action has been supported only by Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France.
“The use of force against a sovereign nation is only possible as self-defense — and Syria hasn’t attacked the United States — and on approval of the U.N. Security Council,” Putin said. “Those who do otherwise place themselves outside the law.”
Indeed, Obama’s coalition appeared anything but strong. Britain’s Parliament has already voted against military action. Even French President Francois Hollande, who has expressed willingness to form a military coalition with the U.S. against Syria, displayed sudden caution, saying he would wait until a United Nations investigation into the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack was released before deciding whether to intervene militarily. The U.N. report is not expected to be released until mid-to late-September.
Obama and Hollande discussed strategy during a meeting on the sidelines of the summit Friday. The U.S. president also held a surprise meeting with Putin, one that Putin initiated with some small talk during a break in Friday morning’s summit session. A senior administration official said the two leaders, who have a strained relationship, eventually moved to a corner, pulled together their chairs and talked for about 20 to 30 minutes as other summit participants looked on. The official was not authorized to describe the meeting publicly and spoke only the condition of anonymity.
Both Obama and Putin later said their conversations were candid, but yielded no new agreement on Syria.