Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed a UN resolution to consolidate the international fight against terrorism. Putin and US President Barack Obama offered competing views on Syria at the UN ahead of talks.
Ahead of a meeting between the two men on Monday, both addressed the UN General Assembly.
Putin and Obama appeared to differ wildly in their approach to the role that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might have in the fight against the “Islamic State” (IS). Both launched thinly-veiled criticisms of one another.
Putin, who has not attended the UN gathering in the past decade, was not in Russia’s seat in the chamber when Obama spoke.
Putin called for a resolution consolidating the international fight against terror. “We proposed that the fight against terrorism be incorporated into a binding international document and no country be allowed to use terrorism for the purpose of intervention in the affairs of other countries,” he said.
‘Bravely fighting face-to-face’
Putin has said backing Assad was the wisest course of action, with Syrian government forces the only effective fighting force against IS and other Islamist groups.
“We believe it’s a huge mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian authorities, with the government forces, those who are bravely fighting terror face-to-face,” Putin said in his speech on Monday.
While Obama said he was open to working with Russia and Iran to bring Syria’s civil war to an end, he called for a transition toward Assad’s ouster.
“We must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo,” Obama said.
However, the US president suggested that the US, Russia and Iran work to end the bloodshed in Syria. “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama said.
A role for elections?
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did not directly address the fate of Assad, but suggested that elections could restore legitimacy and help with the consolidation of power in Syria.
However, French President Francois Hollande said “nobody can imagine” a political solution for Syria that would involve Assad. He was speaking after a meeting with a Western-backed Syrian opposition group that lasted almost an hour.
Hollande maintained a firm opposition to the involvement of Assad. “Russia and Iran say they want to be part of a solution,” he said. “So we must work with these countries to explain to them that the route to a solution does not go through Bashar al-Assad.”
Talks with US allies
Earlier Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry met ministers from the main countries of the US-led anti-IS coalition – Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey – in New York. The ministers agreed to seek “an end to the conflict and allow Syrians to chart a peaceful future without Assad,” according to Kerry’s spokesman.
Before Obama and Putin met on Monday, US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, explained that the president had decided to use the opportunity of Putin’s presence in New York to seek common ground.
“The president believed it would be irresponsible to let this occasion in which the two leaders would be in the same city pass without trying to test to see whether progress could be made on these newly intractable crises,” Power told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
rc/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)