DAMASCUS: US President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin called Monday for an "immediate" end to the Syria conflict as 94 deaths were reported in a worsening artillery pounding of cities.
The call by the rival powers was made as Russia reportedly prepared to send two warships with marines to its naval base in Syria where UN monitors have suspended their patrols because of escalating violence.
"In order to stop the bloodshed in Syria, we call for an immediate cessation of all violence," the two leaders said in a statement after meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.
"We are united in the belief that the Syrian people should have the opportunity to independently and democratically choose their own future," the leaders said.
Putin told reporters that he and Obama had found "many common points" on the 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Obama said he and Putin agreed on the need for a "political process" to halt the conflict and had pledged to work with UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on the crisis.
But there was little sign they had agreed a way to end the conflict which monitors say has now cost more than 14,400 lives.
The United States has voiced frustration at Russia's blocking of UN Security Council moves against Assad. The head of the UN mission in Syria is to brief the Security Council on Tuesday on the deteriorating conflict.
The United States, Britain and France are working on a new UN Council resolution in which they want to threaten sanctions against Assad. But Russia, Syria's main international ally, and China have already blocked two resolutions which just hinted at measures.
A British marine insurer, meanwhile, said it had cancelled cover for a Russian ship, the MV Alaed, following reports it was carrying Mi-25 helicopter gunships destined for Syria.
"We have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage," Standard Club said.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the ship was stopped off the coast of Scotland.
Moscow news reports, meanwhile, said Russia is preparing to send two amphibious assault ships and marines to the Syrian port of Tartus where Russia has a naval base to ensure the safety of its nationals,