Standing with French president, Obama calls for unity to crush Islamic State

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Hollande to press Obama on the war against Isis – and Russia’s role in it.

President Obama defended his controversial plan to admit thousands of Syrian refugees into the U.S., after he met Tuesday with visiting French President Francois Hollande to discuss the Islamic State threat. And Obama says that the downing of the plane underscores the importance of moving forward on efforts to find a political solution to the civil war in Syria. Hollande’s decision to follow talks with Barack Obama with a trip to Moscow two days later to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin is not likely to go down well with his American hosts. “There is dissatisfaction on the US side about the optics of going from the US to see Putin,” a source in Washington said. “If Russia is serious about this effort, they should really be coming to the coalition.” The talks may also be complicated by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane on Tuesday, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and had ignored repeated warnings.

Hollande’s trip to Washington is part of a diplomatic push to get the international community to bolster the anti-ISIS campaign, and the French president planned to urge Obama to work with Russia to build a new coalition to fight the extremists. The US has repeatedly condemned Russia’s intervention in Syria for propping up President Bashar al-Assad, whom it says has lost popular support, and for becoming a recruiting tool for Isis. On Monday, Putin visited Assad’s other key backer, Iran, for talks with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “The Americans have a long-term plot and are trying to dominate Syria and then the whole region,” Khamenei was quoted as saying. “This is a threat to all countries, especially Russia and Iran.” The 13 November attacks in Paris on a concert hall, restaurants and near the national stadium killed 130 people and thrust Hollande into the role of war president, eager to end a crisis that threatens to drag on for years, causing refugees to press into Europe. Last week he pleaded for the US and Russia to set aside their policy differences over Syria and “fight this terrorist army in a broad, single coalition”.

After meeting Britain’s David Cameron on Monday, he is expected to ask Washington and Moscow this week for greater military cooperation and intelligence sharing. Ahead of Hollande’s arrival, US vice-president Joe Biden hosted senior diplomatic representatives from 59 of the 65 members of the anti-Isis coalition at the State Department. “The French ambassador said he thought President Hollande would bring a message of ‘urgency’ from Paris,” reported one diplomat present at the meeting. “Biden said everyone knows what needs to be done and there’s no doubt we’ll prevail, but we need to do a hell of a lot more. ‘Increased focus’ was the key phrase.

Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said the downing is an “incident between the Russian and Turkish governments.” He added, “All aircraft should respect the sovereignty of nations around them.” As for the incident, he said: “We were able to hear everything that was going on. Obama says the United States will do even more to prevent attacks at home and that there is a growing recognition after the Paris attacks that European countries need to ramp up efforts to stop the flow of terrorists. The diplomat said: “McGurk talked about how tough the fighting is in Iraq, but the Iraqi army is now showing bottle and taking a lot of casualties as it takes back territory metre by metre. “He also said the Russians have been more focused and reasonable since the Sinai atrocity,” a reference to the apparent bombing of the Russian airliner in October that killed 224 people.

President Barack Obama says Russia’s airstrikes against moderate opposition groups in Syria are bolstering the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. So far, Obama is resisting calls to either change or significantly escalate his approach, and instead is focused on getting other countries to offer more counterintelligence, humanitarian and military assistance. After the atrocity in Paris, France sent its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle with its 26 jet fighters to the Mediterranean to help combat militants in Syria. France shares the US’s position that a transition that would lead to the departure of Assad. “A political solution means to be able to create a unity government in Syria and clearly say that Assad cannot be the future of the country he has helped to butcher,” Hollande said on Monday. Beyond their discussions on military cooperation, Obama and Hollande were expected to discuss diplomatic efforts to achieve a political transition in Syria.

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