Home World U.S. News UNGA 2015: Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama Clash over Syria

UNGA 2015: Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama Clash over Syria


President Vladimir Putin says Russia is considering whether to follow the US and its allies in conducting air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS) targets.

The Russian president spoke after meeting President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

However, the meeting, and the two presidents’ speeches at the UNGA, also highlighted splits about how to end the Syrian war.

Russia said it would be an “enormous mistake” not to work with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to tackle ISIS.

On September 28, the US and France again insisted that Bashar al-Assad must go.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

In response, Vladimir Putin said: “They aren’t citizens of Syria and so should not be involved in choosing the leadership of another country.”

Russia would conduct air strikes only if they were approved by the United Nations, Vladimir Putin said, while also ruling out Russian troops taking part in a ground operation in Syria.

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin met for 90 minutes on the sidelines of the UNGA in talks that the Russian president called “very constructive, business-like and frank”.

It was Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin’s first face-to-face meeting in almost a year, with the Ukraine war also on the agenda.

A senior US government official said neither president was “seeking to score points” in the talks. Both sides agreed to open lines of communication to avoid accidental military conflict in the region, the official added.

In his speech to the UNGA, President Barack Obama said compromise among powers would be essential to ending the Syrian conflict, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives and forced four million people to flee abroad.

“The US is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” he said.

“But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.”

Vladimir Putin said it was an “enormous mistake to refuse to co-operate with the Syrian government and its armed forces who are valiantly fighting terrorism face-to-face”.

He also called for the creation of a “broad anti-terror coalition” to fight ISIS, comparing it to the international forces that fought against Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have long differed on Syria: the US opposes President Assad remaining in power, while Russia has been a staunch ally of the regime in Damascus and has recently stepped up military support.

Some Western leaders have recently softened their stance towards Bashar al-Assad, conceding that he might be able to stay in power during a political transition.

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