- Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have failed to agree on solution in Syria
- Comes as Syrian government troops resumed their siege of Aleppo
- Obama said there ‘are gaps of trust and we haven’t yet closed the gap’
- But two leaders have agreed to keep up negotiations to reach agreement
- The pair were having their last meeting before Obama leaves office
- A deal to get aid to Aleppo’s civilians and at least partially stop Russian and Syrian bombardments had looked likely, before talks collapsed
- Meeting came as US officials probe Russia’s influence on presidential vote
Article by Hannah Parry
President Barack Obama arrived in New York for his final appearance at the U.N. General Assembly – as the Syrian cease-fire agreement with Russia teeters on on the verge of collapse.
Just over a week after Obama and Vladimir Putin’s tense ‘pull-aside’ meetings on the bloody conflict at the G20 summit in China, the President flew into Manhattan ahead of his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday.
The Syrian conflict will be a major topic of concerns at the assembly, after the UN security council was forced to call an emergency meeting Saturday over air strikes by the US-led coalition.
Russia had condemned the coalition forces for killing 62 Syrian soldiers and wounding 100 more in the strikes, claiming it had allowed ISIS to gain an advantage.
The Pentagon claims Syrian soldiers were hit accidentally and that the pilots had ‘believed they were striking a Daesh [Isis] fighting position’. The US envoy to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called Russia’s demands to call the security council meeting ‘a stunt’.
‘If this airstrike was the result of a targeting error,’ Russian major general Igor Konashenkov said in a statement, ‘it is a direct consequence of the US side’s stubborn unwillingness to coordinate its action against terrorist groups on Syrian territory with Russia,’ Wall Street Journal reports.
Putin had already announced over the summer he did not plan to attend the United Nations General Assembly. The Russian president is expected to send Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to address the assembly instead.
‘It’s a much more dangerous world today than it was eight years ago,’ said Jim Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Iraq and deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush.
Aside from the crumbling Syria cease-fire, Obama is also hoping to make some headway on North Korea.
He is due to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday where he is expected to request tougher action from Beijing on North Korea by cutting off their financial supply.
In his final address at the U.N., Obama will also take stock of the foreign-policy agenda he first outlined in 2009 where he promised a ‘new era of engagement’ with America whose international reputation had fallen after the Bush era.
‘When we went to the U.N. for the first time in 2009, the president focused on a number of critical priorities for the United States that were going to help define his presidency,’ said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. ‘And coming back eight years later, we believe that we made significant progress in a number of these areas.’
Those goals have included securing the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
But one area which Obama has not delivered on is Iran where, despite securing the nuclear agreement, Iranians have continued to reject the President’s attempts to boost relations. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will not even be in attendance at this year’s assembly.
Obama will also be hosting a Leaders Summit on Refugees this year, where world leaders will be expected to to provide solutions to the global refugee crisis.
He is scheduled to meet President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, on Monday, whose country has been besieged by terrorist group Boko Haram, while on Wednesday, Obama will take part in a U.S.-Africa forum before meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
But the tense Syrian cease-fire is expected to dominate discussions.
Washington and Moscow support opposing sides in the bloody five-year conflict, which has left 300,000 people dead and forced millions to flee.
In their final face-to-face meeting at the G20, before Obama leaves office in January next year, they agreed to keep up negotiations over a cease-fire agreement.
Obama said the pair had a ‘candid, blunt, business like meeting’.
It comes as Syrian government troops – backed by Russia – resumed their siege of the city of Aleppo.
A deal to provide aid to Aleppo’s ravaged civilians and at least partially stop Russian and Syrian bombardments had looked likely on Sunday, before talks collapsed.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had been trying to broker a deal for weeks that would curb the violence between Assad’s government forces and rebel forces backed by the US.
The agreement hinged on the two sides agreeing to closer militarily coordination against extremist groups operating in Syria.
But Obama expressed skepticism that Russia would hold to its agreement and talks were overtaken by developments on the ground.
State media said Syrian government troops had taken an area south of Aleppo, severing the last opposition-held route into its eastern neighbourhoods.
He said ‘We are back in a situation where Assad is bombing without impunity and strengthening Nusra’s position to recruit people for terrorism and that’s a dangerous dynamic.