Wednesday 16 October 2019

Obama and Cameron put pressure on Putin to join attacks on Isil's Syrian bases

US President Barack Obama speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Antalya, Turkey, ahead of the G20 summit
US President Barack Obama speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Antalya, Turkey, ahead of the G20 summit

Christopher Hope

Barack Obama and David Cameron made a co-ordinated diplomatic bid last night to persuade Russian president Vladimir Putin to back their attempts to defeat Isil.

The US president met his Russian counterpart for a 30-minute discussion on the Syrian war - a significant change of tone between the two nations in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.

Mr Cameron was expected to hold his first meeting with Mr Putin for a year, after a breakdown in relations over Ukraine.

The British Prime Minister was to tell Mr Putin to stop targeting moderates who are opposed to Syrian tyrant Bashar Al-Assad and instead to concentrate on helping to "destroy" Isil terrorists.

Mr Cameron said earlier: "We have our differences with the Russians. But the conversation I want to have with Vladimir Putin is to say 'Look, there is one thing we agree about which is we'd be safer in Russia, we'd be safer in Britain, if we destroy Isil. That's what we should be focusing on.'"

In his meeting, Mr Obama "welcomed efforts by all nations to confront the terrorist group Isil and noted the importance of Russia's military efforts in Syria focusing on the group."

That was a major improvement in relations after more than a year of hostility over Russian aggression in Ukraine plus Mr Putin's recent attacks on Syrian moderates.

Britain and the US hope Mr Putin will be receptive to talks on a joint approach to Isil, after 224 people were killed on a Russian jet over Egypt by a suspected Isil bomb.

Western countries have been frustrated by Russia's support for Assad and by the bombing of his opponents.

Downing Street sources said the UK, US and European allies were working hard to ensure there was a "clear consistent approach… to Russia on Isil and Syria" - the countries' leaders will meet later today to discuss the outcome of the Syria talks.

After an unscheduled meeting of Mr Obama and Mr Putin at the G20 summit yesterday afternoon, the US noticeably softened its tone towards Russia, whose bombing campaign was previously met with rather public derision.

Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins said Irish people must resist the bigotry and fear that the Isil terrorists seek to create through brutal attacks.

President Higgins urged everyone to recommit to values of tolerance and respect for human rights as they reject violence of terrorists.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there was no evidence of anything "untoward" being planned either in or for Ireland. Mr Kenny said the State's national security committee, comprising senior government officials from a number of departments, met on Saturday to consider the implications of the attacks in Paris.

"Things are at a normal response level in Ireland," Mr Kenny told RTÉ radio.

Mr Kenny added that there was a "very sophisticated response unit" ready to respond to any warning signs. "We don't have any information to suggest that, but we are very conscious of being vigilant of all of this," the Taoiseach said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan flies to Brussels today for a meeting of his EU counterparts.

Irish Independent

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