Obama works to nav­i­gate tough wa­ters

Pres­i­dent ex­presses ‘skep­ti­cism’ on deal with Putin on Syria

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Christi Par­sons

HANGZHOU, China — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s emis­saries spent much of Sun­day talk­ing with Rus­sian of­fi­cials about how to quell the vi­o­lence in Syria, but the pres­i­dent all but shrugged his shoul­ders when asked about the prospects of a suc­cess­ful deal with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

“Given the pre­vi­ous fail­ures of ces­sa­tions of hos­til­i­ties to hold, we ap­proach it with some skep­ti­cism,” Obama said, “but it is worth try­ing.”

Hours later, Obama en­gaged in del­i­cate talks with Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, whose mil­i­tary has clashed with U.S.backed fight­ers in Syria.

“We dis­cussed ways in which we can fur­ther co­op­er­ate in that re­gard,” Obama said af­ter his meet­ing with the cru­cial NATO ally, whose coun­try is still reel­ing from a failed mil­i­tary coup and a wide do­mes­tic crack­down on sus­pected in­sti­ga­tors.

Obama’s fi­nal pres­i­den­tial ap­pear­ance at the Group of 20 world lead­ers sum­mit here has been a com­pli­cated waltz of diplo­macy with an ar­ray of dif­fi­cult part­ners.

De­spite the strained re­la­tion­ships, Obama is ob­li­gated by a long list of sim­mer­ing world prob­lems to en­gage with lead­ers from Er­do­gan to Putin, with whomWhite House of­fi­cials say he is plan­ning to meet. “You don’t ne­go­ti­ate deals with your friends,” his oft­stated mantra goes, “you ne­go­ti­ate them with your en­e­mies.”

Obama got a rough wel­come to China on his 10th and fi­nal pres­i­den­tial tour of Asia.

As Air Force One tax­ied on the tar­mac, Chi­nese of­fi­cials were re­fus­ing to let the U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice wheel stairs to the plane so that Obama could make his usual Pres­i­dent Barack Obama talks with del­e­gates Sun­day af­ter a G-20 sum­mit group photo. grand en­trance from the front door. In­stead, they ended up wheeling short stairs to a side door, where the trav­el­ing White House press corps could barely see him to record the mo­ment.

An of­fi­cial of the Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion yelled at White House staff for al­low­ing the press in the area at all and then phys­i­cally blocked na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Su­san Rice and her deputy from mov­ing closer to the ar­rival scene.

“They did things that weren’t an­tic­i­pated,” Rice said later.

Much of the dif­fi­culty Obama is en­coun­ter­ing on his trip was an­tic­i­pated, how­ever. Turkey, for ex­am­ple, re­peat­edly has tried to blame the U.S. in the weeks since the failed mil­i­tary-led coup against Er­do­gan.

Er­do­gan’s gov­ern­ment has com­plained about the U.S. fail­ure to ex­tra­dite Fethul­lah Gulen, the Turk­ish cleric who lives in self­im­posed ex­ile in Pennsylvania. Er­do­gan blames him for plot­ting the coup. Gulen de­nies the charge.

On Sun­day, Er­do­gan was po­litely oblique. The U.S. and Turkey should adopt a “com­mon at­ti­tude” against ter­ror­ism, he said.

Obama re­as­sured the Turk­ish leader that the U.S. will work to make sure the par­ties re­spon­si­ble for the coup come to jus­tice. He con­demned the over­throw be­fore quickly not­ing the need to “fur­ther co­op­er­ate.”

U.S. of­fi­cials say they are await­ing suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to jus­tify Turkey’s re­quest for the ex­tra­di­tion of Gulen.

In the same way, Obama’s White House aides main­tained a sense of re­serve as Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry met with Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov in an ef­fort to work out a cease-fire be­tween Syria’s gov­ern­ment and at least some rebel groups as well as pos­si­ble en­hanced mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Rus­sia and the U.S. in Syria.


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