Obama: I don’t expect Putin to do a ‘180' to help fight Islamic State
President Obama expressed fresh doubts Tuesday about Russia’s willingness to turn away from a military campaign in Syria focused on “propping up” President Bashar Assad and instead joining efforts to battle Islamic State, saying that he doesn’t expect a “180 turn” in the near future.
“I don’t think we should be under any illusions that somehow Russia starts hitting only ISIL targets,” Obama said, using his administration’s preferred term for Islamic State. “That’s not happening now. It was never happening. It’s not going to be happening in the next several weeks.”
But he insisted, as he did last week, that he was “confident we are on the winning side of this.” A dinner late Monday with French President Francois Hollande was meant to be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss new efforts to strengthen the international coalition fighting the extremists.
But the stalemate over Syria remains a sticking point. The president said a diplomatic effort to set the path for ending the nation’s bloody civil war is “moving forward steadily,” though “not conclusively,” as the U.S. continues to insist Assad step down before any political transition.
Obama said he thinks Putin understands that Russia cannot “simply get bogged down in a inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict,” and noted that Putin has dealt now with a passenger jet downed by Islamic State militants over Egypt and a Russian military jet shot down by the Turks as it made a brief pass through its airspace.
The latter has presented Obama with additional hurdles. Earlier Tuesday, he met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss ways to “deescalate” tensions inflamed by the shoot-down.
“We all have a common enemy, and that is ISIL,” he said. “I want to make sure that we focus on that threat.”
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