During a joint press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, US President Barack Obama explained the difficulties in attempting to cooperate with Russia to end the violence in Syria while simultaneously attempting to force Russia to implement the Minsk Agreements and end its role in the war in eastern Ukraine.
“I think we’ve already got a lot of differences with Russia on a whole bunch of issues,” Obama stated, according to a press release on the White House’s website. “But I think that we’ve been able to try to stay focused on those areas where we still have a common interest, understanding that we have deep disagreements on issues like Ukraine, but perhaps, potentially, we have an interest in bringing an end to violence in Syria. How do we balance those issues -- that’s pretty standard statecraft at this point with Russia.”
The US President went on to stress that the US will not cease putting pressure on Russia with regard to Ukraine if Moscow agrees to cooperate in Syria.
“But it’s not going to stop us from still trying to pursue solutions so that we can, for example, implement the Minsk Agreement and get Russia and those separatists to lay down arms and stop bullying Ukraine. That’s not going to stop us from trying to make sure that we can bring a political transition inside of Syria that can end the hardship there,” he stated.
Obama’s words come a week after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks in which the two made progress in pursuing cooperation in Syria.
Kerry stated that he hopes Washington and Moscow will share intelligence to coordinate attacks against extremist groups in Syria. The Secretary of State also added that he seeks to persuade the Kremlin to convince the Syrian government to focus its attacks on groups such as the so-called Islamic State and al-Nusra Front instead of moderate, US-backed rebel groups.