Syria tops agenda as Cameron meets Putin

British Prime Minister David Cameron will discuss trade, Syria and human rights in talks with Vladimir Putin in the latest round of Olympic Games-focused diplomacy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron will discuss trade, Syria and human rights in talks with Vladimir Putin in the latest round of Olympic Games-focused diplomacy.

Mr Putin will be welcomed to Downing Street before the leaders attend the final stages of the London 2012 judo competition – a martial art in which the Russian president holds a black belt.

The deteriorating situation in Syria will feature prominently at the meeting, which comes two weeks after Russia and China again vetoed a United Nations effort to end the bloodshed.

Moscow’s on-going refusal to join UN condemnation of the Syrian regime was called “inexcusable” by Britain but Mr Cameron will seek to find common ground on a transition to remove President Assad.

The British Prime Minister is also expected to urge Mr Putin to address growing concerns about human rights in Russia itself following his controversial re-election as president in March.

A group of leading musicians has called in particular for a fair hearing to be given to members of a punk band facing prison for performing what they say was a “legitimate protest”.

The trio Pussy Riot face up to seven years behind bars after staging a performance in a Moscow cathedral calling on the Virgin Mary to remove President Putin from power.

Jarvis Cocker, Pete Townshend, Martha Wainwright and Neil Tennant were among those who raised concerns about the “preposterous” charge in a letter to The Times.

Last month’s arrest of prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny and around 500 others at one of a continued wave of anti-Putin protests following the election may also be raised.

But Mr Cameron will tread carefully as he also seeks to exploit a relative thaw in relations between the two countries to push for stronger trade links.

Russia is already the UK’s fastest-growing export market but the Prime Minister will argue that more needs to be done by Russia to persuade British firms to set up there.

Contacts had been broken off amid allegations that Russia was involved in the 2006 murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London.

Relations thawed somewhat last autumn when Mr Cameron met Mr Putin, then prime minister, in Moscow and the pair held bi-lateral talks at the G20 summit in Moscow.

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