Russia-EU summit to focus on energy, Syria

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, poses for photographers with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, center, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso during the EU-Russia summit, at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

BRUSSELS (AP) — President Vladimir Putin says Russia isn't trying to defend the Syrian regime and wants to see a democratically elected government there.

However, Putin says Friday that a transition can only be achieved through talks.

Putin, speaking after his talks with EU leaders in Brussels, said a lasting peace agreement must ensure the protection of various religious and ethnic groups.

He said Russia isn't "a defender for the current Syrian leadership" and that it wants to see stability in the region near its borders.

Putin's statement reflected attempts by Russia to distance itself from the Syrian regime. But he signaled no intention to change Russia's stance against international sanctions against its old ally.