US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged ideas and perspectives on Syria’s civil war. They also embarked upon the tense topic of Ukraine during an unrehearsed and spontaneous meeting on Sunday in Turkey.
A notable and significant change of dialogue took place between the two nations in the wake of the Paris attacks. President Obama pledged to increase efforts to banish the Islamic State and adopt preventive measures to intercept any further attacks such as those in Paris. He also urged Putin to concentrate Russia’s efforts towards defeating the jihadist group in Syria.
A 35-minute long meeting played out on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit, which brings together leaders from economic world powers and developing nations. According to the White House, the two leaders discussed a new proposal to end the Syrian conflict, and Obama is hopeful that Russia’s airstrikes in Syria will focus on ISIS, not on opposition groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In spite of a great deal of differences and controversies over a considerable amount of issues, not to mention hostility that has been described as personal, both sides were united in one key objective: eradicating Islamic State, the jihadist element that controls vast strips of Iraq and Syria and whose affiliates have taken full credit for the carnage in Paris.
Barack Obama called ISIS “the face of evil” and called on nations to increase their efforts to defeat what is considered the greatest threat today. He said that rather than cast about for a new strategy, the US would intensify its current campaign of airstrikes and arming and training moderate forces.
“We need to be doing everything we can to protect against attacks and protect our citizens,” Obama said at a news conference, closing two days of talks as leaders wrapped up the two-day summit.
The Friday night attacks in Paris have greatly highlighted the emerging and growing potential and capacity of ISIS, putting Moscow and Washington under a new kind of pressure to come up with a solution for the civil war in Syria, which has proved to be a major pull for ISIS recruits. In the course of their informal summit in the Turkish seaside resort of Antalya, Obama and Putin expressed joint interest in convening United Nations-sponsored peace talks toward finding a settlement to the Syrian conflict and forging a ceasefire, an unnamed White House official told journalists.
Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron both highlighted the great need for a collaborative action against terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks. “The latest tragic events in Paris show that we have to unite our efforts in fighting this evil, something we should have done long time ago,” Putin said.
Although US officials have stated clearly that Obama considers the attacks in France an act of war, they warned that he had no intentions to revamp his plans for tackling the growing threat of IS. Officials also said that he remained persistent and steadily opposed to an American ground war in Syria.
“We’re going to wait to see whether, in fact, Russia does end up devoting attention to targets that are ISIL targets, and if it does so, then that’s something we welcome,” Obama said.