by David Smith
French president Francois Hollande is scheduled to meet with Vladimir Putin on Thursday, and Russia’s strategy in Syria is likely to dominate the agenda in Washington
French president Francois Hollande heads to the White House on Tuesday, calling for urgency in the war against Islamic State but also attempting to smooth ruffled feathers over his next diplomatic stop.
Hollande’s decision to follow talks with Barack Obama with a trip to Moscow two days later to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin is not likely to go down well with his American hosts.
“There is dissatisfaction on the US side about the optics of going from the US to see Putin,” a source in Washington said. “If Russia is serious about this effort, they should really be coming to the coalition.”
The talks may also be complicated by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane on Tuesday, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and had ignored repeated warnings. Russia said the SU-24 was downed by artillery fire, but Turkey claimed that its F-16s fired on the Russian plane. The Russian ministry of defense said the plane was over Syrian territory “throughout the flight”.
The US has repeatedly condemned Russia’s intervention in Syria for propping up President Bashar al-Assad, whom it says has lost popular support, and for becoming a recruiting tool for Isis. On Monday, Putin visited Assad’s other key backer, Iran, for talks with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“The Americans have a long-term plot and are trying to dominate Syria and then the whole region,” Khamenei was quoted as saying. “This is a threat to all countries, especially Russia and Iran.”
The 13 November attacks in Paris on a concert hall, restaurants and near the national stadium killed 130 people and thrust Hollande into the role of war president, eager to end a crisis that threatens to drag on for years, causing refugees to press into Europe.
Last week he pleaded for the US and Russia to set aside their policy differences over Syria and “fight this terrorist army in a broad, single coalition”. After meeting Britain’s David Cameron on Monday, he is expected to ask Washington and Moscow this week for greater military cooperation and intelligence sharing.
Source: The Guardian