Ahead Of Meeting With Putin, Obama Addresses Syria At U.N.

Sep 28, 2015
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We’re continuing to track meetings today at the United Nations General Assembly. President Obama is expected to meet Russia’s President Vladimir Putin this afternoon. They will talk about Syria, which leads to a basic question - what does Obama want? The U.S. is hoping to remove Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Russia is an ally of Bashar al-Assad. NPR’s Michele Kelemen is covering the meeting in New York. And, Michele, does the president of the United States have any new proposal to put on the table that might get the U.S and Russia on the same page?

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Well, I think this is all just live diplomacy. I think they’re really caught off guard by Putin’s decision to up the ante, really, before this U.N. General Assembly. Secretary Kerry has met a couple of times here with his Russian counterpart, and officials say they’re just only beginning to try to understand what Russian intentions are. They’ve been trying for years to encourage Russia to use its influence with Assad to nudge him out. That does not seem to be in the cards now, but the U.S. certainly wants to see Russia perhaps keep Assad’s forces focused on ISIS and stop him from attacking his own people. You know the - these barrel bombs that he’s been dropping on his people have been driving millions of people to flee and creating a migrant crisis in the Middle East and Europe. So there seems to be a big push now to see what possibly can be done diplomatically to end this.

INSKEEP: Two things to clarify really quickly. You said Russia upping the ante - you’re referring to the fact that in recent days it’s become clear that Russia has started an intelligence sharing operation with Syria, Iraq and Iran, and that Russia’s also increasing its military presence, it seems, inside Syria, right?

KELEMEN: That’s right, and sending them weapons that the Obama administration says could be used to fight ISIS, but also could be used for other things, and that has them very, very worried.

INSKEEP: NPR’s Michele Kelemen is in New York. Michele, thanks very much.

KELEMEN: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.