Mideast Problems Command Obama's Attention on Summit Sidelines
ELMAU, Germany -- President Barack Obama huddled with allies Monday on the sidelines of an international summit to address pressing Mideast problems while trying to convince European leaders to maintain sanctions against Russia in the face of fresh violence in Ukraine.
Obama participated in 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.
Among the issues they discussed, the two leaders agreed to stay united in pursuit of a comprehensive agreement with several other world powers to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the White House said. They also agreed that sanctions against Russia should remain until the Kremlin fully abides by a peace agreement with Ukraine.
Obama and Hollande also discussed climate change, the threat from Islamic State militants, trade and instability in Libya.
Obama also planned to consult Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as he struggles against an increasing threat from Islamic State militants. Abadi has called for more assistance from the U.S. and its partners, and he was scheduled to address G-7 leaders during a closed session on terrorism.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama 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 the Islamic State in Iraq and Syriaand "assess what's working, what's not, and how we can continue to make progress there in dismantling the infrastructure that ISIL 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 Irannegotiations. 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.
|President Barack Obama|