Obama and Putin’s dueling speeches at a United Nations General Assembly summit served as a public preview of their private meeting late Monday.
The U.S. is prepared to work with any country, including Russian Federation and Iran, to resolve Syria’s conflict, Obama said.
During his address to the United Nations, Mr Obama declared: “We must recognise that there can not be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo“.
“In my opinion there is a basis to work on shared problems together”, but “disputes remain”, Putin told reporters following the meeting. And the 90-minute meeting today did not lead to any breaching of that big divide.
Barack Obama (l) and Vladimir Putin. They also presented very different, perhaps incompatible, worldviews, with Mr. Obama painting the U.S.as the keeper of global order and Mr. Putin blasting America as a “single force of domination” that believes it can do as it pleases with no accountability. Indeed, of all the Syrian questions, and there are many, the question of what to do about Assad looms largest among them.
Earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the assembly a solution to the Syrian conflict could only come about with Syrian warring parties agreeing to talks and the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey coming to agreement on a way forward. Seated at the same table, they clinked glasses during a toast, with Putin smiling and Obama grim-faced.
Obama called Assad a “tyrant” who “drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent civilians”.
“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“.
French President Francois Hollande and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu both rejected the possibility of allowing Assad to stay.
The crisis has taken on fresh urgency amid Russia’s recent military build-up in Syria.
That issue is expected to be a focus of Obama’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin later on Monday.
In the Rose interview, Putin mocked the USA strategy of trying to defeat IS through a combination of regular air bombardments and training rebel forces to fight IS on the ground in Syria.
Putin said Moscow’s approach to Syria has drawn criticism but insisted this was only because Russian Federation was more honest and frank about its ambitions than its critics. His remark “appeared to be a step to outmaneuver Mr. Obama”, according to The New York Times.
Mr Putin, speaking shortly after the United States president, urged the world to stick with Assad.
On the annexation of Crimea, he said that if there were no consequences for Russia’s occupation of the Black Sea peninsula, it could happen to any other country in the UN. Differing strategies concerning Syria, though, need not necessarily signal a renewed Cold War between the United States and Russian Federation.
He also used his address to the UN General Assembly to call for a broad coalition to fight IS in Syria.