Obama Putin: Obama, Putin Meeting
Published: September 29, 2015
Obama Putin: Obama, Putin Meeting, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin ended a day of public sparring with a private meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, their first bilateral talk in nearly a year.
The White House called the meeting a “business-like back and forth” and said Obama and Putin first discussed Ukraine, and then Syria. A senior administration official speaking to reporters on background said the White House got “clarity” on Russian objectives in Syria: defeating the Islamic State group and supporting Assad.
Putin called the meeting “very constructive” and “frank.” He said he and Obama discussed the fight against the Islamic State group, the coalition against which is led by the U.S. but includes no participation from Russia.
Putin, who has ramped up Russia’s military presence in Syria in recent weeks, ruled out sending ground troops into the country but didn’t say participation in an air campaign would be out of the question.
“We are thinking about it, and we don’t exclude anything,” Putin told reporters following the meeting with Obama.
The Obama administration official said the White House isn’t unilaterally opposed to Russian military action in Syria. He said if Putin uses his military solely to fight the Islamic State group, the U.S. could welcome that action. But the official said Obama made clear the U.S. opposes any Russian military support for Assad.
The official also said Obama and Putin disagreed on the role for Assad in any political transition.
“I think the Russians certainly understood the importance of there being a political resolution in Syria and there being a process that pursues a political resolution,” the official said. “We have a difference about what the outcome of that process would be.”
In the nearly 90-minute meeting, Obama and Putin also agreed to deconflict to prevent unintended military engagement in Syria.
On Ukraine, Obama reiterated American support for the country’s independence and sovereignty and “noted positive opportunity to implement the Minsk accord in the next few months.”
Earlier in the day, the presidents addressed the annual gathering of world leaders, often using pointed language in which each publicly rebuked the other’s tactics and worldview. Obama touted the power of diplomacy in solving international disputes, while condemning Russia’s aggressive actions in neighboring Ukraine.
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