This Photo Of Obama & Putin Shows How Terrorism Really Is A Global Problem
Reaction to Friday's attacks in Paris extends beyond France. Over the weekend, world leaders met at the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, where terrorism moved to the top of the what is usually an economic agenda. President Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin even met to talk over the issue face to face. Photographed sitting across from each other on the sidelines of the conference, Obama and Putin showed how the terrorist attacks have brought together even the chilliest of diplomatic relationships for the common cause of stopping ISIS.
The two have not been on good terms since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine. At last year's G20, Putin left early amid criticism from the West. Then, the relationship between the United States and Russia suffered an even greater blow in September, when Putin ordered an air campaign to prop up his ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But with ISIS to blame for the attacks in Paris, a Beirut bombing, and likely the downing of the Russian Metrojet flight in Egypt, Putin appeared to come to the conference ready to work with the West.
According to The Guardian, the two reportedly reached agreement on the contentious issue of Syria. Putin agreed on the need for a "Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition" that would include United Nations negotiations between the Syrian opposition and al-Assad. Before the Paris attacks, this would have appeared impossible, as Putin had continued to staunchly defend longtime ally al-Assad.
Before the meeting with Putin, Obama said that the United States would work with France to find those responsible, but he also called on other countries to do their part as part of a coalition. In addition to to Paris, Obama mentioned Ankara, Turkey, where more than 100 civilians were killed in October by bomb blasts during a peace rally organized by the pro-Kurdistan party. Turkey has said that ISIS is the main focus of its investigation. Obama said:
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.
Putin also referenced Paris before his meeting with Obama, calling it a "horror." He said that Russia is "always in favor of joining efforts to deal effectively with the terrorist threat." Most surprising, though, was Putin's agreement to the UN negotiations between the government and rebels in Syria. That was a striking change, given the interviews Putin had given as late as Friday afternoon. Speaking with Interfax, a Russian news agency, Putin said, "The elaboration of a detailed road map to settle the conflict in Syria, that is not our task." He advocated a continued dialogue between the parties, but nothing with a large outside role.
The agreement with Obama was hashed out over 30 minutes, with the two leaders hunched over a coffee table with U.S. Security Advisor Susan Rice and a Russian aide. NBC News reported that a White House official said the first step would be UN-mediated negotiations and a ceasefire. The plan, if seen through, could help with the fight against ISIS, and also better living conditions in Syria, stemming the tide of refugees to Europe.
Time will tell if Syrian negotiations, which world leaders hope to begin by Jan. 1, will bring all sides to the bargaining table. Pressure from Russia can't hurt.