LONDON Russian President Vladimir Putin questioned on Sunday why the West would want to arm Syrian rebels who he said ate human organs, saying plans to give them weapons contradicted basic human values.
Speaking after meeting Prime Minister David Cameron in London ahead of a G8 summit on Monday, Putin said both the Syrian government and Syrian rebels were to blame for the bloodshed.
"You will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras. Are these the people you want to support?," Putin told a news conference.
"Is it them who you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to humanitarian values that have been preached in Europe for hundreds of years."
Putin was referring to disturbing video footage on the Internet of one rebel fighter eating what appeared to be the heart of a government soldier.
The talks followed a decision by President Barack Obama's administration to arm rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad after it said it had obtained proof that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.
The Russian leader, who arrived an hour late for the talks, said he wanted to help broker a peace deal for Syria, saying he hoped the G8 summit in Northern Ireland could help advance that process.
But Cameron said big differences over how to best achieve that aim remained between Britain and Russia.
"There are very big differences between the analysis we have of what happened in Syria and who is to blame but where there is common ground is that we both see a humanitarian catastrophe", Cameron said.
However, Cameron added he thought the differences were not insurmountable.
"What I take from our conversation today is that we can overcome these differences if we recognise that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people decide who governs them and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them," he said.
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Costas Pitas and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Maria Golovnina and Andrew Osborn)