President Obama met Friday with Russia counterpart Vladimir Putin, but the two leaders apparently did not resolve their dispute over what to do about Syria.
Putin, the host of the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, told reporters he spoke with Obama for 20 to 30 minutes; he called the meeting constructive, but he still opposes Obama's call for military action in Syria over chemical weapons.
The White House confirmed the Putin meeting but provided no details.
In wrapping up a summit that spotlighted global divisions over Syria, Obama touted the support of France and other nations for a military strike designed to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capability.
"Any action that we contemplate, and partners like France might contemplate, will be limited, proportionate and appropriate - and will be focused on deterrence of the use of chemical weapons in the future and degrade the Assad regime's capacity to use them," Obama said after meeting with French President Francoise Hollande,
"I value very much President Hollande's strong international response to these grievous acts," he said.
While leaders of Russia, China and other G-20 nations echoed their opposition to a strike against Syria, Obama said it's "clear that many countries agree with us that international norms must be upheld."
Obama spoke as divisions among world leaders over the conflict in Syria persisted on the final day of the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, despite lobbying efforts by the U.S. president and his aides in favor of military action.
Obama is scheduled to return to Washington on Friday night and will spend the coming days urging members of Congress to support a resolution authorizing military action. Some lawmakers said that project faces an uphill battle. Votes are expected next week.
As the two-day G-20 summit wound down, leaders issued a declaration to work to strengthen the global economy, the main agenda topic at the meetings of members. It was clear that the leaders would not issue any sort of main statement on Syria.
Earlier, Thursday night dinner discussions between Obama and his counterparts on Syria extended into Friday morning. The U.S. president returned to his hotel at 2 a.m. local time. British Prime Minister David Cameron and Putin were only starting a private talk on Syria around that time.
Italian Prime Minister Enrique Latta tweeted early Friday morning, "The G-20 has just now finished the dinner session at which the divisions about Syria were confirmed."
Obama's push for a military strike against Damascus does have its supporters. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Thursday listed G-20 members France, Canada, Turkey and Australia as among nine countries now supporting military action.
However, most nations seem opposed, led by Russia. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Thursday that "even in the wake of the flagrant shattering of the international norm against chemical weapons use, Russia continues to hold the council hostage and shirk its international responsibilities."
Power added: "We have seen nothing in President Putin's comments that suggest that there is an available path forward at the Security Council ... (But) it is in our interest, and the interest of all member states of the U.N., to respond decisively to this horrific attack."
Russian officials seem confident that momentum for the U.S. effort is lacking. "It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation," said Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, according to Reuters.
Syria is only the latest source of friction between the Obama and Putin governments.
Obama had canceled a planned summit with Putin because of those disputes, including Russia's decision to grant asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
The president's efforts at the G-20 included a one-on-one conversation Friday with China's Xi Jinping.
The president has also canceled a planned trip to California that was set for Monday and Tuesday to focus on lobbying members of Congress in Washington.
China has so far given support to Russia's position at the Security Council and Peskov said those attending a meeting Thursday between Putin, Xi and the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa expressed concern that an attack on Syria "could have an extremely negative effect on the global economy".
Meetings on Friday began with a discussion of humanitarian aid for those affected by the Syrian conflict. The U.K.'s Cameron, whose parliament voted not to back military action, chaired the session and announced £52 million ($81 million) in new humanitarian aid, including training for antidotes for chemical attacks, medical workers and civil defense teams on responding to them, and decontamination equipment. Russia Today reported that the meeting was followed by another on Syria involving the U.K., France, Italy and EU leaders that ended inconclusively.
Peskov, meanwhile, denied to London's Telegraph newspaper that he had said earlier that "Britain is just a small island (so) no one pays any attention to them." His remarks had sparked a spirited assertion of the U.K.'s importance by Cameron on Friday morning.
"Definitely (the comment) is nothing to do with reality," Peskov said.
Cameron later ruled out any possibility of agreement over Syria during the summit.
The G-20 leaders will sign a final communique that is not expected to mention Syria as it has not been a part of the formal meeting agenda, which is focused on economic issues.
The Interfax news agency reported Friday that Russia was continuing to boost its naval presence in the Mediterranean near Syria while the State Department ordered its diplomats in Lebanon to leave the country, citing security concerns. Hezbollah, an ally of Syria, is based in Lebanon.