Obama And Putin Trade Barbs Over Syria At The United Nations General Assembly

| by Meg O'Connor
Obama and PutinObama and Putin

At the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, President Obama advocated for diplomacy and condemned leaders who turn to violence and abandon the principles of democracy in an attempt to control their people. Obama singled out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in particular. 

"We're told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder, that it's the only way to stamp out terrorism or prevent foreign meddling," Obama said in his speech. But he rejected that notion, "In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children because the alternative is surely worse."
President Obama's comments came just a few hours before his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin - their first face-to-face meeting in over a year. The two presidents sharply disagree on the situation in the Ukraine, and are also at odds regarding Syria. Russia has recently been increasing its military presence in the war-torn country and helping to lend support to Assad and his regime.

In a recent "60 Minutes" interview with CBS News' Charlie Rose, Putin said, "There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism...[and] at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform."

Yet in his speech, Obama insisted that Assad must not remain in power, saying, "We must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo." The president added that the United States "is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict."

Obama also brought up the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine. The president once again condemned Russia's military intervention in the eastern part of the country and reiterated that the situation must be solved through diplomacy. 

"Imagine if instead, Russia had engaged in true diplomacy and worked with Ukraine and the international community to ensure its interests were protected," Obama said. "That would be better for Ukraine but also better for Russia and better for the world, which is why we continue to press for this crisis to be resolved in a way that allows a sovereign and Democratic Ukraine to determine its feature and control its territory."

"If that happens without consequences in Ukraine," the president continued, "it could happen to any nation gathered here today."

Sources: CBS News, The New York Times

Photo credit: The Telegraph