ANTALYA, Turkey Pressed for a strong answer to the Islamic State group’s assault on Paris, the world’s top industrial and developing nations are set to outline their co-ordinated response to what President Barack Obama has described as an “attack on the civilized world.”
The leaders of the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations were wrapping up their two-day summit in Turkey Monday against the backdrop of heavy French bombardment of the Islamic State’s stronghold in Iraq. The bombings marked a significant escalation of France’s role in the fight against the extremist group.
Numerous meetings about next steps in Syria and the Islamic State campaign were being scheduled on the sidelines of the summit at the Turkish seaside resort of Antalya.
Obama was to huddle with European leaders from France, Britain, Germany and Italy. French President Francois Hollande skipped the summit to stay home and deal with the aftermath of the attacks, but Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius planned to attend the meeting with the U.S. president.
Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key player in ending the conflict in Syria that created a vacuum for the Islamic State, sat down for 35 minutes Sunday to discuss the latest diplomatic initiatives.
At a meeting Monday, Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron both emphasized the need for joint action against terrorism in the wake of Paris terror attack.
“The latest tragic events in Paris show that we have to unite our efforts in fighting this evil, something we should have done long time ago,” Putin said at the start of the session. Cameron offered condolences over the Russian plane’s crash in Sinai on Oct. 31, and Putin thanked him for sharing intelligence data related to the crash.
Putin said that Russia-British ties are now far from perfect, adding that the two nations need to look how to develop ties in the future.
Putin launched an air campaign in Syria a month-and-half ago with the Islamic State as the top declared target. The U.S. and its allies, however, have accused Moscow of focusing on other rebel groups in a bid to shore up Syria’s leader Bashar Assad, whom the West sees as the main cause of the Syrian conflict and the chief obstacle to peace.
Obama appeared to take a softer tone with Putin in their talks, noting “the importance of Russia’s military efforts” aimed at IS, according to a White House readout of the meeting.
Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said the leaders share similar “strategic goals” for defeating the Islamic State extremists “but tactical differences remain.”
On the crash of a Russian passenger jet over Sinai that killed all 224 people on board, Putin said Monday during a bilateral meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi that the probe is nearing a conclusion.
“We are at the final stage of studying the materials that we have,” Putin told Renzi, who offered his condolences.
U.S. and British officials have said that the plane was likely downed by a bomb, and the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility. Russia has suspended all flights to Egypt pending the official probe, signalling that it takes the bomb theory seriously.
Obama also huddled Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, another key player in the effort to end the Syrian war. The Saudis have pushed strongly for the ouster of Assad and have funded his foes. Putin is also set to have talks Monday with the Saudi king, who is scheduled to visit Moscow soon.
Foreign ministers gathered in Vienna over the weekend to discuss a new plan to end the Syrian war, which appears to be based largely on a new Russian proposal that envisions negotiations between Assad’s government and opposition groups starting by Jan. 1.
Sharp differences over Assad’s future and disagreements about what militant groups in Syria should be considered terrorists have dampened hopes for a breakthrough.
Still, the shock over the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people raised the demand for quick action. The attacks in Paris, along with earlier bombings in Lebanon and Turkey, as well as the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, indicated that the Islamic State has grown bold enough to strike a variety of targets far away from its base in Syria and Iraq.
“The skies have been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris just a day and a half ago,” Obama said Sunday after arriving in Antalya, just a few hundred miles from the Syrian border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the summit host, pledged that leaders would produce a “strong message” about fighting international extremism, though he, too, did not spell out specific steps.
In Turkey, five police officers were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a police raid on a suspected IS hideout near the Syrian border. Turkish security forces also rounded up 20 suspected IS militants in and around Antalya before the summit.
While U.S. officials said Obama viewed the attacks in France as an act of war, they cautioned he had no plans to overhaul his strategy for dismantling the IS and said he remained staunchly opposed to an American ground war in Syria. Instead, they foreshadowed an expansion of steps the U.S. is already taking, namely airstrikes and train-and-equip missions for rebels inside Syria.
In addition to the violence and instability afflicting much of the world, this year’s G-20 agenda also included efforts to hasten global economic growth, with a particular focus on addressing the effects of China’s economic slowdown. In a draft of the final G-20 communique obtained by The Associated Press, leaders renewed their goal to grow their collective GDP by another 2 per cent by 2018.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace in Antalya, Turkey, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.