G20 Summit In Turkey Focuses On Syria, Daesh Militancy

Members of the Group of 20 Summit have met in Turkey to discuss the political process in Syria and how to counter Daesh militancy. REUTERS//Aykut Unlupinar/Pool

BELEK, Turkey, Nov 15  – U.S. President Barack Obama vowed on Sunday to step up efforts to eliminate Daesh and prevent more attacks like those in Paris, while urging Russia’s Vladimir Putin to focus on combating the jihadist group in Syria.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will also urge President Vladimir Putin on Monday to focus Russian air strikes in Syria on Daesh militants.

“The proposals that the Russians have put forward looked at moving from terrorism to constitutional reform to elections but didn’t really get into acknowledging the process of transition around that so those are the types of issues we will want to get into,” a source from Cameron’s office said.

A White House official said Obama and Putin agreed during a 35-minute meeting on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Turkey on the need for a political transition in Syria, saying events in Paris had made it all the more urgent.

“We will redouble our efforts, working with other members of the coalition, to bring about a peaceful transition in Syria and to eliminate Daesh as a force that can create so much pain and suffering for people in Paris, in Ankara, and in other parts of the globe,” he said.

U.S.-led efforts to combat Daesh insurgency were complicated when Russia joined the conflict a month and a half ago, targeting what the West says are mainly areas where foreign-backed fighters are battling Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, Moscow’s ally, rather than Daesh insurgents.

Britain is participating in air strikes against the militant group in Iraq but Cameron has said he will not extend the mission to Syria without the backing of parliament, something that he does not yet have.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday that the G20 stood united to face any militant threat.

“We here at the G20 summit are sending a strong message that we are stronger than any form of terrorism,” Merkel said at the G20 leaders’ summit in Turkey, adding that the attacks in Paris were a predominant topic at the meeting.

The U.S., Turkey and their allies want Assad out 

Obama huddled with Putin during a working lunch and the two agreed on the need for a Syrian-led transition including U.N.-mediated talks, the White House official said.

Putin and Obama talked “extensively”, Russian news agencies cited top Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov as saying.

“Strategic objectives relating to the fight against Daesh are, in principle, very similar, but there are differences on the tactics side,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the renewed sense of urgency to find a solution to the war in Syria after the Paris attacks, adding the world had a “rare moment” of diplomatic opportunity to end the violence.

Obama wants to coax other European and Middle Eastern countries into more tangible steps to show their military commitment. He met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Al Saud, discussing the need to support the moderate Syrian opposition and the Iraqi government in the fight against Daesh.

Obama said he also discussed in a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan coordinating efforts to fortify the border with Syria, which Daesh militants have used to smuggle supplies and foreign fighters.

Migration Concerns

In a diplomatic coup for Europe and for Turkey, the G20 leaders will agree that migration is a global problem that must be addressed in a coordinated way, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters, although it has yet to be accepted by all and is due to be published on Monday, Nov. 16.

Europe and Turkey, the most heavily hit by the crisis, had been pushing for the G20 to recognise the issue as a global problem and help to deal with it financially, despite opposition from China, India and Russia. A million migrants from the Middle East and Africa are expected to come to Europe this year alone.

According to a separate draft statement, they also agreed to step up border controls and aviation security in the wake of the Paris attacks, which they condemned as “heinous”.

Obama, Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Merkel and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will meet on Monday afternoon to discuss tackling Daesh and making a coordinated effort on the political process in Syria.

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