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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, January 22, 2018

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Putin and Obama clash at UN over Assad role in Syria

Obama pushing for a political transition

Share on Facebook September 30, 2015, Reporter : BigNewsNet, Reader : 413

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UNITED NATIONS - Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama on Monday clashed over the Syria turmoil, with Obama pushing for a political transition to replace Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but Putin disagreeing.

Addressing the UN general assembly, Putin said it was a big mistake not to engage the Syrian army in the fight against Islamic State. He said the Syrian military was the only force truly fighting the IS militants in the country.

"We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face," Putin said.

"We should finally acknowledge that no one but President Assad's armed forces and [Kurdish] militia are truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organisations in Syria," he said.

Putin, making his first appearance at the UNGA in 10 years, also criticised the West for arming "moderate" rebels in Syria, who he said later joined the IS. Without naming the United States, he said a "single centre of dominance has emerged after the end of the Cold War," and attempts have been made to revise the UN role.

After their sharply combative speeches at the United Nations General Assembly, Obama and Putin also met privately for 90 minutes their first face-to-face encounter in nearly a year. Their meeting also comes amid escalating Russian military engagement in Syria.

The two leaders began their interaction with a stony-faced handshake, which did little to ease differences on reaching a political resolution to end Syria's four and a half year civil war.

In his speech, Obama said he was open to working with Russia, as well as Iran, to bring Syria's civil war to an end. He called for a "managed transition" that would result in the ouster of Assad, whose forces have clashed with rebels for more than four years,.

"We must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo," Obama said.

Obama said any solution must not include continued support for "a tyrant" like Syrian President Bashar Assad, who he said has killed tens of thousands of his own people in a war that began with a crackdown on peaceful protests.

In sharp contrast, President Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in separate speeches before the General Assembly, blamed the United States for the war in Syria and said any solution must include Assad and his regime.

"We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to work with the Syrian government and its armed forces," Putin said. "No one but the Syrian forces and Kurdish militia are seriously fighting against the Islamic State."

Putin said much of the terrorist threat in Syria is the result of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The alternative to aiding Assad is to arm the terrorists, he added.

"Instead of the triumph of democracy, we get violence and social disorder," Putin said. "Tens of thousands of militants are fighting under the banner of the so-called Islamic State. Their ranks include former Iraqi servicemen thrown out after the invasion of their country in 2003."

Putin said after the meeting that Russia has not ruled out joining U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria but would not send ground troops into combat, the Associated Press reported.

He said any Russian action will be in accordance with international law. Putin also did not rule out the use of Russian aircraft.

"We are thinking about it, and we don't exclude anything," he said.

 

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