Putin calls for global group to fight extremism

VLADIVOSTOK • Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the establishment of an international coalition to fight extremism, saying he had spoken to United States President Barack Obama about the initiative.

Mr Putin told journalists on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum that he had also been in talks about such a coalition with the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and others.

"We really want to create some kind of an international coalition to fight terrorism and extremism," he said. "To this end, we hold consultations with our American partners - I have personally spoken on the issue with US President Obama."

Russia has been pushing for a coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that would include the Assad government, something the US and Europe have opposed. "There is a general understanding that joint efforts in the fight against terrorism should go hand in hand with the political process in Syria," Mr Putin said.

He also said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to early parliamentary elections and to establish contacts with the "healthy opposition".

Syria has been locked in civil war since 2011. The conflict has plunged the country into the Middle East's biggest humanitarian and economic disaster of the past 25 years and contributed to the growing strength of ISIS, which now controls a huge swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq.

"It is too early" to talk about Russian military action in Syria, though "we are considering various options", Mr Putin said. Russia is actively helping the Assad government with weapons and military support, he said.

Mr Putin's comments came after press reports this week that Russia is ramping up its involvement in Syria. Russian troops are fighting with Mr Assad's forces and images of what appeared to be Russian planes and drones in the skies over Syria have been published, the Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Putin calls for global group to fight extremism'. Print Edition | Subscribe