- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2012

In their first meeting following renewed tensions between the U.S. and Russia, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin called Monday for an end to the violence in Syria and said there’s still time for diplomacy to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

As world leaders gathered for the two-day Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, much of the focus was on the European economic crisis, which could deflate Mr. Obama’s re-election hopes. Mr. Obama hailed the victory of pro-bailout parties in Sunday’s elections in Greece, and held one-on-one talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has resisted the president’s call for quick economic stimulus measures.

European officials downplayed any hopes of a quick solution to the worsening problems in the 17-nation eurozone, and bristled at the suggestion they need help.

“Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to run our economy,” said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

But Mr. Obama’s most-anticipated meeting of the day was a two-hour session behind closed doors with Mr. Putin, who snubbed Mr. Obama last month by skipping an international conference at Camp David. The Obama administration last week accused Moscow of contributing to the Syrian government’s slaying of pro-democracy protesters by selling military helicopters to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama issued a joint statement Monday agreeing for the need to end the violence in Syria, although Mr. Putin didn’t elaborate in his remarks to reporters, saying only “we’ve been able to find many commonalities” on issues including “the Syrian affair.”

Mr. Obama said they pledged to work with the United Nations and other parties to stop the killing of civilians.

“We agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war and the kind of horrific deaths that we’ve seen over the last several weeks,” Mr. Obama said, while Mr. Putin bit his lip and stared at the floor.

On Iran, Mr. Obama said the two leaders “emphasized our shared approach” as members of the ongoing negotiations of the so-called “P5 plus one” group seeking to achieve full international inspections of Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities.

“We agreed that there’s still time and space to resolve diplomatically the issue of Iran’s potential development of nuclear weapons, as well as its interest in developing peaceful nuclear power,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Putin never uttered the word “Iran.”

Their statement also briefly touched on another source of tensions — a proposed missile defense shield in Europe. The U.S. and its NATO allies are proceeding with plans for a shield over Russian objections.

At a summit in March, Mr. Obama was caught in a “hot mic” moment asking then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for more breathing room on missile shield negotiations until after the U.S. elections in November. Unaware that a reporter was listening, Mr. Obama told the Russian he would have more “flexibility” after his presumed reelection, sparking a storm of criticism at home.

In their joint statement Monday, Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin said that “despite differences,” the two nations agreed “to continue a joint search for solutions to challenges in the field of missile defense.”

They also urged North Korea “not to commit acts that would escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula,” a reference to the North’s launch in April of a rocket that disintegrated shortly after liftoff. Analysts said the missile was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

As the summit got under way Monday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon thanked President Obama in person Monday for his decision to stop deporting young-adult illegal immigrants from the U.S. The Mexican leader praised Mr. Obama’s “valor and courage” for taking the executive action on immigration Friday.

Mr. Calderon called the move “unprecedented,” and said he’s sure many families in the U.S. are thanking Mr. Obama as well.

On Friday, Mr. Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced they would categorically stop deporting illegal immigrants under age 30 who were brought to the country before age 16, have been here for at least five years and have completed high school, earned an equivalency diploma or joined the U.S. military.

Those criteria are similar to the Dream Act legislation that never passed Congress, but that would have granted a path to citizenship to most illegal immigrants under 30.

The move put presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the defensive. Mr. Romney didn’t say whether he would revoke the action if elected, but he also said that Mr. Obama’s move was all about election-year politics.

“The timing is pretty clear,” Mr. Romney said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “If he really wanted to make a solution that dealt with these children or with illegal immigration in America, then this is something he would have taken up in his first 3½ years, not in his last few months.”

On the eurozone, Mr. Obama lacks the leverage to ease the persistent economic crisis that is threatening his bid for a second term. But he hailed the elections in troubled Greece as a positive step toward global stability.

The election Sunday of parties supporting Greece’s financial-bailout package “indicates a positive prospect” not only for forming a new government in Athens, but also for “working constructively with their international partners,” Mr. Obama told reporters.

Finance ministers from around the world awaited the outcome as Greeks voted to either accept the terms of their $140 billion bailout or default on their debt and quit the 17-nation eurozone. The pro-bailout, New Democracy party took nearly 30 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections, but still needs to form a coalition government.

Mr. Obama said the election means that Greeks “can continue on the path of reform and do so in a way that also offers the prospects for the Greek people to succeed and prosper.”

“And we are going to be working … with our European partners, and with all countries, to make sure that we’re contributing so that the economy grows, the situation stabilizes, confidence returns to the markets and, most importantly we’re giving our people the chance if they work hard to succeed and do well,” the president said.

Mr. Obama has been urging European leaders to resolve their debt crisis, but he has few tools at his disposal beyond persuasion to help resolve it. The president has been trying to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others to focus more on immediate economic stimulus measures, rather than deficit reduction.

Europe is America’s largest trading partner, and the impact of the downturn overseas has affected the sluggish U.S. economy.

The eurozone’s economy is expected to dominate the two-day G-20 summit.

The summit will allow the leaders of the participating industrialized nations to take “one important step in a series of steps that are going to be required to continue to improve global economic prospects,” Mr. Obama said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide