Obama huddles over Mideast problems on summit sidelines

Published 09.06.2015 00:57

U.S. President Barack Obama was huddling with allies Monday on the sidelines of an international summit to address pressing Mideast problems while trying to convince European leaders not to waver on sanctions against Russia in the face of fresh violence in Ukraine. Obama came to the final day of the Group of Seven summit under the strain of an intimidating list of global pressures and little signs of movement to address them among the world's largest industrial democracies. Climate change and terrorism topped the official agenda, but leaders also grappled with Russia's aggressive moves on Ukraine, an upcoming nuclear deadline with Iran, tenuous trade pact politics and an impasse over Greece's international bailout. Obama met privately with French President Francois Hollande, a sometimes skeptical partner in the talks with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Obama also planned to consult with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as he struggles against an increasing threat from Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Abadi has called for more help from the U.S. and its partners to confront the militants. He also was scheduled to address G-7 leaders during a closed session focused on terrorism. Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the president wants to look for "more efficient ways that we can offer assistance to Iraqi security forces" and he expects that will be part of the discussion among the G-7, which also includes Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. Meeting on Sunday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama said he wanted to address the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and "assess what's working, what's not, and how we can continue to make progress there in dismantling the infrastructure that ISIS has built."

On another battlefront, in Ukraine, Earnest said Obama was urging European leaders to renew sanctions against Russia that are set to expire at the end of July. Obama wants the Europeans to leave the financial penalties in place until Moscow complies with the terms of a cease-fire agreement reached four months ago in Belarus. Some of the worst fighting since the cease-fire was agreed to broke out last week in eastern Ukraine. "Russia has essentially thumbed their nose at the commitments that they made in the context of the Minsk negotiations," Earnest said. He urged Europeans to stay the course, while acknowledging it could cause financial pain because their economies are tied to Russia. Obama's meeting with Hollande came as France at times has taken a harder line and expressed more skepticism than Washington on the Iran negotiations. Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for New American Security who worked on foreign policy in President George W. Bush's White House, said he would advise Obama to deliver a direct message to Hollande. "What is it going to take to get you back on the bus? Because let's keep these disagreements behind closed doors, rather than doing this in the press, which is harmful to our position," Fontaine said.

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