21-09-2021 09:01 AM Jerusalem Timing

Obama, Putin Spar over Syria in Dueling Speeches at UN

Obama, Putin Spar over Syria in Dueling Speeches at UN

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama sparred over the crisis in Syria in dueling UN speeches on Monday, each accusing the other of fuelling the carnage.

Russian President (L), US President (R)Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama sparred over the crisis in Syria in dueling UN speeches on Monday, each accusing the other of fuelling the carnage.

The Russian urged UN General Assembly members to unite to fight the so-called 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL) takfiri group and said it would be a disastrous error not to support Syria's sitting president, Bashar al-Assad.

"We must address the problems that we are all facing and create a broad anti-terror coalition," Putin said in his address, his first to the world body in a decade.

It is, he argued, an "enormous mistake to not cooperate with the Syrian group which is fighting the terrorists face-to-face."

Obama said Washington was ready to work with Russia and even Iran against ISIL terrorists, but took a swipe at them for supporting Assad, whom he dubbed a child-killing tyrant.

Not to be outdone, the Russian leader blamed the rise of violent extremism on the United States' military interventions in Iraq and Libya, which he said unleashed chaos in the Middle East.

Obama took the podium at the UN General Assembly ahead of Putin and hours before the pair were to hold their first meeting in over two years, at roughly 5:00 pm (2100 GMT).

The US president extended a cautious hand to his traditional foes, suggesting they work together to end the bloodshed in Syria.

"The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict," he said.

But the American leader made clear his opposition to Moscow and Tehran's current policy of arming and supporting Assad.

Rather than a bulwark against jihadist extremism, Obama argued, Assad drives Syrians into the arms of such groups by such acts as dropping "barrel bombs to massacre innocent children."

Putin rejected this view, arguing that the IS group sprang out of the chaos left behind after US-backed forces ousted Saddam Hussein from Iraq and Moammar Gaddafi of Libya.

After the end of the Cold War, Putin argued, the West emerged as a new "center of domination" of the world and arrogantly took it upon itself to resolve conflicts through force.

This power led to the "emergence of areas of anarchy in the Middle East, with extremists and terrorists.

"Tens of thousands of militants are fighting under the banners of the so-called Islamic State, and their ranks include former Iraqi servicemen," he said.

Putin said the current US policy of training and arming local rebel groups to fight terrorists was only adding fuel to the fire.

"The ranks of the radicals have been joined by the moderate Syrian opposition," he said. "First, they are armed and trained, and then they defect to the so-called Islamic State."