President Barack Obama says that the United States is willing to work with Russia and Iran to try to end the Syrian conflict.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, he denounced ISIL but also said that there can’t be a return to the status quo under Bashar al-Assad.
Obama described Assad as a tyrant and as the chief culprit behind the four-year civil war in which at least 200,000 people have died and millions have been driven from their homes internally or abroad as refugees.
“When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal affairs,” Obama said.
“It breeds human suffering on an order of magnitude that affects us all. Likewise, when a terrorist group beheads captives, slaughters the innocent and enslaves women, it is not a single nation’s national security problem. That is an assault on all our humanity.”
Yet Obama did not explicitly call for Syria’s president, an ally of both Russia and Iran, to step aside immediately. Instead he suggested that there could be a “managed transition” away from his rule.
His speech also slammed Russia over the Ukraine crisis.
“We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated,” Obama said.
“If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today. That’s the basis of the sanctions that the United States and our partners imposed on Russia. It is not a desire to return to a Cold War.”
Obama was scheduled to meet Putin later on Monday on the sidelines of the gathering.
While any cooperation between Washington and Moscow would be far from easy, diplomatic miracles do happen, it seems.
Take the renewed US ties with its former foe, Cuba.
In his speech to the General Assembly, Obama drew applause with his call for Congress to lift the US trade embargo on Havana.