Sunday, May 3, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Obama encouraged by G20 Syria talks, plans speech

By
From page A2 | September 06, 2013 |

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — President Barack Obama claimed a growing recognition among foreign leaders Friday that “the world cannot stand idly by” in the face of chemical weapons use in Syria, and said he plans to make his case to the American people in an address Tuesday night.

With Congress showing signs of reluctance to back a resolution authorizing military strikes, Obama refused to say whether he would act if he fails to win that approval.

“It would be a mistake for me to jump the gun and speculate because right now I’m working to get as much support as possible out of Congress,” he said.

Obama told reporters at the end of a two-day Group of 20 economic summit that he and other leaders had had a “full airing of views on the issue.” He said many foreign nations will be issuing statements on their positions, but he didn’t say whether any specifically had joined France in supporting his move toward U.S. military strikes.

He said the leaders are unanimous in believing that chemical weapons were used in Syria and that international norms against that use must be maintained. He said division comes over how to proceed through the United Nations.

Obama also held a surprise meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a chief opponent of U.S. military action. Putin, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said this discussion with Obama focused on Syria during the 20 to 30 minutes and that, while they disagreed, the meeting was “substantial and constructive.”

Obama said he had a “candid and constructive conversation” with Putin, even if they still disagreed on how to respond to the chemical weapons use in Syria. He said they agreed the underlying conflict can only be resolved through a political transition. Obama said he thinks it is important that he and Putin work together to urge all sides in the conflict to try to resolve it.

The meeting came Friday as Obama sought to build international backing for military action. But three days after he left Washington, it’s unclear whether the global coalition the president has been seeking is any closer to becoming a reality.

Putting up stiff resistance to Obama’s appeals, Russia on Friday warned the United States and its allies against striking any chemical weapon storage facilities in Syria. The Russian foreign ministry said such targeting could release toxic chemicals and give militants or terrorist access to chemical weapons.

“This is a step toward proliferation of chemical weapons not only across the Syrian territory but beyond its borders,” the Russian statement said.

Moreover, China remained a firm no. The European Union is skeptical about whether any military action can be effective. Even Pope Francis weighed in, urging leaders gathered here to abandon what he called a “futile mission.”

Still, Obama was undeterred. He and French President Francois Hollande, the U.S.’s strongest ally on Syria and a vocal advocate for a military intervention, met on the sidelines of the summit about attracting European support for action. “It’s clear that there are many countries that agree with us that international norms must be upheld,” Obama said.

Holland told reporters invited into their meeting that they came to summit “wanting as large a coalition as possible,” but without saying whether they picked up more support for military intervention.

“To do nothing would mean impunity,” Hollande said. “We must take our responsibility” and act.

As the president pressed his case on the world stage, he was dispatching his U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, to a Washington think tank to argue that the global community cannot afford the precedent of letting chemical weapons use go unpunished.

Illustrating the risks associated with a strike, however, the State Department on Friday ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon, a step under consideration since Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian regime last week. The travel warning said it had instructed nonessential staffers to leave Beirut and urged private American citizens to depart Lebanon.

Yet even as Obama sought the global buy-in that could legitimize a potential strike, his aides were careful to temper expectations that the world community could speak with one voice. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said the president wasn’t asking his peers to pledge their own militaries to a U.S.-led strike, but simply to say they agree a military response is warranted.

“We don’t expect every country here to agree with that position,” Rhodes said Friday at the Group of 20 economic summit, where Obama was huddling with foreign leaders.

Standing on Russian soil, Rhodes suggested the U.S. had given up hope that Russia — a stalwart Syria ally — could be coerced into changing its position. “We don’t expect to have Russian cooperation,” he said.

A key status update was to come Friday when Obama, his diplomatic dexterity pushed to the max, will be quizzed by reporters in the waning hours of the summit.

A jobs-and-growth agenda awaiting world leaders gathering at the ornate Constantine Palace quickly gave way to intense posturing over Syria — at least on the surface. The leaders served up Syria as dinner conversation Thursday at the suggestion of the summit’s host, President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader has steadfastly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad and disputes claims that Assad’s regime was behind chemical attacks that the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 Syrians. Other estimates are lower.

Syria dominated the nearly three-hour meal, with leaders condemning the use of chemical weapons but reaching no consensus about the proper response, said a French official in St. Petersburg. Many leaders at the dinner remained in doubt about whether Assad’s regime was behind the attack, said the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named according to presidential policy.

So too was the Syrian crisis a prevailing theme in Obama’s individual meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the summit in this Russian port city.

The White House said Obama conferred on Syria Thursday evening with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong supporter of airstrikes against the nation on its southern border. Syria also came up on Friday as Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose government has warned vigorously against the use of force.

Before his scheduled return to Washington late Friday, Obama also planned to meet with Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, calling attention to another area of disagreement with Moscow.

A fleeting interaction between Obama and Putin became the high-drama moment of the summit, underscoring the labored state of relations between the two leaders. The eyes of the world watching, the Russian and the American were all smiles Thursday as they made small talk in front of news cameras for a few seconds as Obama arrived at the summit.

But the welcoming handshake may have been where the pleasantries ended. In other venues, the two nations were repeatedly bumping heads.

Russia’s foreign ministry, in a statement Friday, said a U.S.-led strike would mark “a new dangerous turn” in the crisis, risking the release of chemical weapons or their possession by terrorists. And the head of the foreign affairs panel in Russia’s lower house of parliament, Alexei Pushkov, blasted Obama on Twitter as having “completely transformed into a president of war.”

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia was boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, moving in warships into the area and stoking fears about a larger international conflict if the United States orders airstrikes.

Even at home, there was far from a consensus that an American strike on Syria was the best course of action. Awaiting Obama upon his return was an equally fractious debate in Congress over whether to authorize the limited military action he was proposing.

Pulling out all the stops, Obama was working the phones from Europe and appealing for support from leery lawmakers, Democratic and Republican alike. And he called off a planned trip to California next week, opting to stay in Washington to keep up the pressure on Congress to say yes.

As top national security officials continued to brief Congress on the accusation against Assad and the proposed response, a measure authorizing Obama to act was advancing tenuously through the Senate, winning approval from a foreign relations panel Wednesday and heading to the Senate floor. The measure’s prospects were less certain in the Republican-controlled House.

In an unusual turn of events, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner both said that a delegation of Russian lawmakers had sought to meet with them to discuss Syria. Both leaders, who are supporting Obama’s call for a strike, turned down that invitation, aides said.

“I don’t know that the Russians have anything to add to the debate in the United States, given that we know where Russia stands,” said Rhodes, the Obama aide.

————

By Josh Lederman. Associated Press writer Angela Charlton contributed to this report. Follow Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

Council to hear about drought pricing

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

 
Breaking barriers: For Prieto, it’s all about hard work

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
Peaceful Baltimore demonstrators praise top prosecutor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Nigeria: Nearly 300 freed women, children led to safety

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Graveyard thefts land three Woodlanders behind bars

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

Downtown altercation leads to injuries

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Woman arrested for brandishing knife on overpass

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

Yolo DA launches monthly newsletter

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Can plants talk? UCD prof will answer that question

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

A Scottish setting for local author’s next book

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Dr. G featured on the radio

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Fee proposed on rail cars that haul oil, other flammables

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Indoor Fun Fly comes to Woodland

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Free beginner yoga class offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Video discusses surveillance of prostate cancer

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
NAMI support group meets May 10

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Internships move UCD doctoral students beyond academia

By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Make Mom a warm vanilla sugar scrub

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

 
The secret to Mother’s Day gifting success: Give time, not stuff

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Letter book is series of collected missives thanking Mom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
If your mom fancies something fancy, consider a tea party

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Out of Africa and back to Davis: James Carey will give special presentation

By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Big Day of Giving makes philanthropy easy

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Tuleyome Tales: How are a snake and a mushroom alike?

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
Tuleyome hosts Snow Mountain camping trip

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

.

Forum

With sincere gratitude

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

 
A wonderful day of service

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

Please help Baltimore

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

 
End of life doesn’t mean life must end

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4 | Gallery

Advancing education for California’s former foster youths

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

 
Eyewitness to the ‘fall’ of Vietnam: It was not a bloodbath

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5 | Gallery

Dangers from prescription pills

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

 
He can’t give it up

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

UCD softball splits with Titans

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Trifecta of Devil teams open playoffs Tuesday

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Defending champ DHS clinches a baseball playoff berth

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Sports briefs: DHS boys win to reach lacrosse playoffs

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Making memories at Aggie Stadium

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Pro baseball roundup: Hudson pitches Giants past Angels

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
UCD roundup: Aggie women speed past Hornets

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Arcadia partners on soybean trait to improve yield

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Marrone opens new greenhouse

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
New firm helps students on path to college

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A8

Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A8

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, May 3, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8