- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 15, 2015

President Obama and other world leaders meeting in Turkey vowed Sunday to intensify their efforts to “eliminate” the Islamic State in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, but no strategies emerged immediately from the talks.

“We will redouble our efforts, working with other members of the coalition, to bring about a peaceful transition in Syria and to eliminate Daesh as a force that can create so much pain and suffering for people in Paris, in Ankara, and in other parts of the globe,” Mr. Obama said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Leaders at the Group of 20 summit denounced Friday’s coordinated attacks, which killed at least 129 and wounded more than 350 in Paris, amid growing concern that the extremist group is increasing its ability to inflict carnage far beyond the borders of Syria and Iraq.

“The skies have been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris,” Mr. Obama said. “The killing of innocent people, based on a twisted ideology, is an attack not just on France, not just on Turkey, but it’s an attack on the civilized world.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was a strike “against the whole of humanity.”



Mr. Obama also held an unscheduled, half-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the 4-year-old civil war in Syria, where the Russian military is backing President Bashar Assad even as the U.S. seeks his ouster. The White House described their meeting as “productive.”

The conference in Antalya, Turkey, is taking place in a resort about 300 miles from the border with Syria, where the civil war has allowed Islamic State fighters to seize territory and grow into a rampaging force that has spawned Europe’s largest migration flows since World War II. Investigators in France believe at least one of the terrorists in Paris may have slipped into the country as part of the exodus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the nations at the G-20 summit were “sending a strong message that we are stronger than any form of terrorism.” But Mrs. Merkel, whose “open door” policy toward refugees is under increasing criticism at home, also said that strengthening Europe’s external borders is “crucial” for Germany.

Mr. Obama said the U.S.-led coalition that has been waging airstrikes against the Islamic State for more than one year will step up its campaign.

Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, said Mr. Obama is looking to France and others in the U.S.-led coalition to “intensify their efforts” against the Islamic State. He said the U.S. considered the Paris attacks an “act of war” but that it was up to France whether to invoke the NATO Charter clause that would require members to rush to its defense.

“You’ll see more resources dedicated to strikes, leadership targeting, support for opposition forces,” Mr. Rhodes said. He said the U.S. would increase its effort to arm Syrian opposition groups but ruled out deployment of U.S. troops to Syria beyond the 50 or so special operations forces that Mr. Obama has authorized.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Iraqi intelligence officials warned the U.S.-led coalition countries about an imminent attack by the Islamic State one day before the attacks in Paris. They said the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ordered an attack on coalition countries fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as on Iran and Russia, “through bombings or assassinations or hostage taking in the coming days.”

Six senior Iraqi intelligence officials corroborated the information in the intelligence dispatch, and four of them said they warned France specifically of a threat.

Twin terrorist bombings at a peace rally in Turkey’s capital last month killed about 100 people, and the Islamic State also has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt on Oct. 31 that killed all 224 aboard.

On Sunday, five Turkish police officers were injured when an Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up during a police raid on a suspected extremist hideout near the Syrian border. Turkish security forces also rounded up 20 suspected Islamic State militants in and around Antalya in the run-up to the G-20.

As the conference wrapped up its first day, there were few indications of any new military strategy by the U.S.-led coalition. European Union leader Donald Tusk called for a show of “full determination” against terrorism and urged cooperation to prevent financing of terrorism — a step that nations already have been pursuing for more than a year.

White House officials suggested that there would be more airstrikes like the one that targeted a top Islamic State leader in Libya late last week.

The G-20 meeting is normally a forum for leaders to discuss economic issues, but the horrific attacks in Paris are dominating the conference. French President Francois Hollande canceled his attendance at the summit to deal with the crisis at home.

Mr. Obama said he and other leaders at the conference “still had time to discuss some of the other critical issues like climate change, including development and growth, and other topics that are of great importance to all the G-20 countries.”

His meeting with Mr. Putin was not announced in advance. The White House said the two leaders discussed a proposal to end Syria’s civil war and Mr. Obama’s hope that Russian airstrikes would focus on the Islamic State instead of on opposition groups backed by the U.S.

Mr. Obama also renewed his call for Russia to withdraw forces, weapons and support for pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine, the White House said.

Mr. Putin, meanwhile, called on nations to pool their efforts to combat terrorism and said the fight must respect international law, the U.N. Charter and each nation’s sovereign rights and interests.

“We understand very well that it’s only possible to deal with the terror threat and help millions of people who lost their homes by combining efforts of the entire global community,” Mr. Putin said.

In talks with Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Obama said, he also discussed the progress foreign ministers made in Vienna. On Saturday, they outlined a plan for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, although differences remained over Mr. Assad’s fate.

Mr. Obama discussed with Saudi King Salman bin Abd al Aziz the need to ramp up military efforts against the Islamic State.

Further, the White House said they agreed “on the importance of sustained progress toward a cease-fire and a parallel process leading to a political transition in Syria.”

“The president and king also reaffirmed the importance of providing robust support to the moderate Syrian opposition and discussed its role in future peace efforts,” the White House said.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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