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Obama, Putin face off at UN meeting over Syria crisis

Mariam Mecky , Monday 28 Sep 2015
Obama, Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama speak during the luncheon at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
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The Syrian crisis has become the focal point of the UN General Assembly’s 70th session, particularly in the showdown among major powers such as the United States and Russia.

In his speech, US President Barack Obama stressed that diplomacy in Syria is necessary to find a way forward without Syria's president Bashar Al-Assad, referring to him as a tyrant.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the international community should provide comprehensive assistance to the legitimate government of Al-Assad.

Syria has been witnessing an atrocious civil war for more than four years now, which has claimed the lives of more than 240,000 people and forced more than four million to flee the country while leaving some 7.6 million displaced internally.

The war began in 2011 when opponents of Al-Assad’s regime started protesting against the government before the regime cracked down on dissent.

Obama slammed Russia's support for the Syrian regime yet expressed the US’s willingness to sit with Russia and Iran to resolve the crisis.

Russia and Iran are widely known for their influence in Syria and for being supporters of Al-Assad’s regime.

Addressing world leaders, Obama said that the situation requires a managed transition away from Assad and to a new leader and an inclusive government, emphasising that there is no way to go back to the "pre-war status quo."

On the other side, Putin said in his speech, which came shortly after Obama's, that "it is a huge mistake not to cooperate with the Syrian government to address terrorist issues."

Putin said that Russia will be proposing a resolution in the United Nations Security Council for a broad anti-terrorist coalition to coordinate all forces that counter the Islamic State group threat.

"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," Putin said.

Building on that, Putin said that the international community should help the countries fighting the Islamic State, namely the Syrian regime, by restoring statehood, strengthening government institutions, and providing any needed assistance.

Putin started off saying that the countries that criticise Russia use the "pretext of growing ambition as if those who say it have no ambition at all."

The American and Russian counterparts are supposed to come together late Monday in their first official face-to-face meeting in over two years in a time of high tension, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last Thursday.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday Tehran was ready to help bring democracy to the Syrian crisis, calling for a solution. However, unexpectedly, he did not mention whether the way forward will include Assad or not.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called for the Syrian crisis to be referred to the International Criminal Court for the first time, while French President Francois Hollande said there is no room for Assad in the country's solution.

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