U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin clashed Monday over their competing visions for Syria, with Obama urging a political transition to replace the Syrian president but Putin warning it would be a mistake to abandon the current government.
Obama and Putin's dueling speeches at a United Nations General Assembly summit served as a public preview of their private meeting late Monday. The sit-down marks their first face-to-face encounter in nearly a year and comes amid escalating Russian military engagement in Syria.
Obama said he was open to working with Russia, as well as Iran, to bring Syria's civil war to an end. He called for a "managed transition" that would result in the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad who he called a "tyrant" whose forces have clashed with rebels for more than four years, creating a vacuum for the Islamic State and other extremist groups.
"We must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo," Obama said.
Also Obama acknowledged that the situation in Libya after airstrikes to remove a man he called a tyrant was not ideal and that military forces alone could not bring order in Iraq
Putin who was speaking at the UN general assembly for the first time in 10 years, however, urged the world to stick with Assad, arguing that his military is the only viable option for defeating the Islamic State.
"We believe it's a huge mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian authorities, with the government forces, those who are bravely fighting terror face-to-face," Putin said.