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G20-Obama says stands with France (Update 3: adds UNSG comments)

File photo: Erdogan and Obama

By Matt Spetalnick and Dasha Afanasieva

U.S. President Barack Obama described the killings in Paris claimed by Islamic State as an attack on the civilised world and said on Sunday the United States would work with France to hunt down those responsible.

“As we I’m sure each said to (French) President Hollande and the French people, we stand in solidarity with them in hunting down the perpetrators of this crime and bringing them to justice,” Obama told a joint news conference with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a G20 leaders summit.

Obama also condemned a double suicide bombing linked to Islamic State in the Turkish capital Ankara last month, after a meeting with Erdogan at which the two leaders discussed the conflict in Syria, efforts to tighten Turkey’s borders, and the refugee crisis affecting Turkey and Europe.

“As was true with the terrible attacks that took place in Ankara, 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 civilised world,” Obama said.

He said Turkey had been a “strong partner” with the U.S.-led coalition in going after Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

“The discussion we had today I think was very helpful in helping continue to coordinate work that we are doing together, to help to fortify the borders between Syria and Turkey that allow Daesh (Islamic State) to operate,” Obama said.

Erdogan said Turkey, which holds the G20 presidency this year, would continue to show solidarity with the United States and said that he expected the summit to produce a strong statement on the fight against terrorism.

“We are confronted with collective terrorism activity around the world as terrorism does not recognise any religion, any race, any nation or any country,” Erdogan said.

“We will of course carry on with our discussions in the G20 summit within the predetermined agenda, however we will put strong emphasis on having a firm stance on international terrorism,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday he welcomed the renewed sense of urgency to find a solution to the civil war in Syria after the Paris attacks, adding the world had a “rare moment” of diplomatic opportunity to end the violence.

Russia, the United States and powers from Europe and the Middle East outlined a plan on Saturday for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, a day after gunmen and suicide bombers from Islamic State went on a rampage through Paris, killing at least 127 people.

At a news conference during the G20 meeting, Ban described the attacks as ‘barbaric’, saying no country or city was immune from the threat of terrorism and the world needed a robust response.

He said the Syria roadmap agreed on Saturday was ‘encouraging and ambitious’ and urged its implementation as quickly as possible to pave the way for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria.

“I urge the participants to move beyond their differences so that they can push for a nationwide ceasefire,” Ban said. “After years of division this is a rare moment of diplomatic opportunity to end the violence.”

The fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains a key disagreement between his ally Russia and the West. Moscow has for weeks been carrying out air strikes in Syria in support of Assad’s forces.

The West and its allies including Turkey say he must leave office, while Moscow and Tehran support elections in which he could stand.

Ban also called on G20 leaders for support as Europe grappled with tens of thousands of migrants, largely Syrians, fleeing war, describing it as the ‘biggest crisis of forced displacement since World War Two’.

“This is not only a crisis of numbers. It is a crisis of global solidarity,” Ban said, urging European countries coping with displacement not to reduce humanitarian aid.

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