• US and Russian leaders meet to discuss Syrian conflict
  • Key differences remain over future role of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad

US President Barack Obama and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held a 90-minute meeting on 28 September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss future action on Syria.

Both presidents made speeches to the UN General Assembly, but differed over the role of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

Obama, along with officials from France and the UK, insisted that Al-Assad must relinquish power as part of the transition, while Putin proposed working with Al-Assad to combat the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis).

The US president said during his address that his country would work with any state, including Iran and Russia, to bring an end to the civil war in Syria. But he added: “We must recognise that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.”

Video:

Barak Obama, UN General Assembly 2015

Putin, however said it would be a mistake not to work with Al-Assad, saying it should be acknowledged that “no-one except for [Al-] Assad and his milita is truly fighting Isis in Syria”.

Video:

Vladimir Putin, UN General Assembly, 2015

The speeches may lead to a new UN resolution on the civil war, which began in 2011.

The death toll has reached almost 250,000, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and has displaced more than 9 million people, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Al-Assad’s government is responsible for a clear majority of deaths, according to the UK-based Syrian Network for Human Rights.

Russia has recently deployed troops in Syria, and has not ruled our air strikes. It is also stepping up cooperation with Iraq, Iran and Syria to fight Isis.

Stay informed with the latest in the Middle East
Download the MEED app today, available on Apple and Android devices