LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande agreed that a political process in Syria must be revived, a source close to the French president said.
At a meeting at Cameron’s country residence, Chequers, the two leaders “expressed agreement on the need to revitalise the political process” in Syria, according to a source in Hollande’s entourage.
In addition, the two leaders “discussed how a big part of the answer to the refugee crisis must be a solution to the situation in Syria”, a spokesman for Cameron’s office said.
The two agreed that a European Council meeting on Wednesday should focus on “increasing assistance for the countries neighboring Syria to enable more refugees to stay there” the spokesman added.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria — where a brutal conflict has killed more than 240,000 and caused four million to flee — received its first new fighter planes and weapons from ally Russia to fight the Islamic State group on Tuesday.
The French source described as “an important step” Cameron and Hollande’s exchange of views on Syria and Libya, where instability is blamed for exacerbating the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
On Tuesday, European Union countries agreed to accept 120,000 refugees between them despite fierce opposition from central and eastern European countries.
The two had agreed “that EU countries should do more to return migrants who don’t have a genuine claim to asylum to their countries of origin”, according the Cameron spokesman.
The prime minister also “underlined the UK support for French efforts to secure a global climate deal” at upcoming United Nations talks in Paris at the end of this year.
The Conservative leader showed Hollande around Chequers, including a portrait gallery of 16 former prime ministers and the “Long Gallery”, where former leader Winston Churchill watched films during World War II.
The two shared a working dinner where they discussed British demands for reforms to the European Union ahead of a referendum on its membership due by 2017.
Cameron is seeking changes to areas including competitiveness in Europe, powers for national parliaments, relations in the euro zone and the ability of citizens from one member state to claim social security benefits in another, the French source said.
“They agreed that many things could be settled without having to revise the treaties,” the source added.
The talks also touched on Russia and Ukraine, where separatist rebels are battling Kiev’s forces in the east.
Both leaders agreed on the importance of implementing a peace plan signed in February in Belarussian capital Minsk, according to the French source.