UNITED NATIONS : The US said on Monday it was willing to work with Russia, as well as Iran, to try to end the Syrian civil war but the two big powers clashed over whether or not Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be included.
Speaking at the annual United Nations General Assembly, US President Barack Obama described Assad as a tyrant and as the chief culprit behind the four-year civil war in which at least 2,00,000 people have died and millions driven from their homes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in contrast, told the gathering of world leaders that there was no alternative to cooperating with Assad’s military in an effort to defeat the Islamic State militant group, which has seized swathes of territory in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
The disagreement raised questions about how Obama and Putin might find common ground when they meet later on Monday on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
“The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” said Obama, who spoke before Putin. “But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.”
Obama did not explicitly call for Assad’s ouster and he suggested there could be a “managed transition” away from his rule, the latest sign that despite US animus toward the Syrian leader it was willing to see him stay for some time.
Putin said: “We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with Syrian government and its armed forces who are valiantly fighting terror face to face. We should finally acknowledge that no one but President Assad’s armed forces and (Kurdish) militia are truly fighting ISIS in Syria.”