Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

News, September 2013


Al-Jazeerah History


Mission & Name  

Conflict Terminology  


Gaza Holocaust  

Gulf War  




News Photos  

Opinion Editorials

US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)




Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

G20 Leaders Urged Obama to Abandon Plans for Air Strikes Against Syria, 10 Leaders Agree on a "Strong" But Not  Military Response

Putin and Obama Obama and Hollande

Obama rejects G20 pressure to abandon Syria air strike plan

By Matt Spetalnick and Alexei Anishchuk

Sat Sep 7, 2013 5:17am EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) -

U.S. President Barack Obama resisted pressure on Friday to abandon plans for air strikes against Syria and enlisted the support of 10 fellow leaders for a "strong" response to a chemical weapons attack.

Obama refused to blink after Russian President Vladimir Putin led a campaign to talk him out of military intervention at a two-day summit of the Group of Twenty developed and developing economies in St. Petersburg.

He persuaded nine other G20 nations plus Spain to join the United States in signing a statement calling for a strong international response, although it fell short of supporting military strikes, underscoring the deep disagreements that dominated the summit.

A senior U.S. official said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the only European leader at the summit who did not sign the statement, held off because she wanted to let the European Union have a chance to weigh in first.

Leaders of the G20, which accounts for 90 percent of the world economy and two-thirds of its population, put aside their differences to unite behind a call for growth and jobs and agreed the global economy was on the mend but not out of crisis.

But there was no joint statement on Syria, despite a 20-minute one-on-one talk between Obama and Putin on the sidelines of the summit on Friday, following a tense group discussion on the civil war over dinner late on Thursday.

"We hear one another, and understand the arguments but we don't agree. I don't agree with his arguments, he doesn't agree with mine," Putin told a closing news conference dominated by questions about Syria.

Participants at the dinner said the tension between Putin and Obama was palpable but that they seemed at pains to avoid an escalation. Obama said credit was due to Putin for facilitating the long discussion of the Syrian crisis on Thursday night.

But he defended his call for a military response to what Washington says was a chemical weapons attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that killed more than 1,400 people in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on August 21.

"Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations, that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence. And that's not the world that we want to live in," Obama told a separate news conference..

Putin said Washington had not provided convincing proof that Assad's troops carried out the attack and called it a "provocation" by rebel forces hoping to encourage a military response by the United States.

Chinese President Xi Jinping tried to dissuade Obama from military action during talks on Friday, telling him that Beijing expected countries to think twice before acting. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against military action that did not have the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

Unable to win Security Council backing because of the opposition by veto-wielding Russia and China, Obama is seeking the support of the U.S. Congress instead.

He declined to speculate whether he would go ahead with a military strike in Syria if Congress opposed it, but said most G20 leaders condemned the use of chemical weapons even if they disagreed whether to use force without going through the United Nations.

"The majority of the room is comfortable with our conclusion that Assad, the Assad government, was responsible for their use," he said.

Those who signed up to the call for a strong international response were the leaders or other representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, Britain and the United States.

The senior U.S. official said the statement had been worked out over the past two days and while there were changes to a draft produced by U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice, the final version had in it everything the United States wanted. A final chat at the summit between Obama and French President Francois Hollande sealed the deal, the official said.

The statement's endorsement of the U.S. approach represents an implicit backing of the use of military power, even if that is not spelled out in the statement, the official added, contradicting Putin's assertion that the only countries to support the use of force are Canada, Saudi Arabia, France and Turkey.

Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, made clear on Thursday that the United States had given up trying to work with the Security Council on the issue, and accused Russia of holding it hostage.

Hollande, who supports Obama over military action against Syria, said he would try to bring together a coalition of states in favor of such an intervention if the Security Council could not agree on action.


The dispute over Syria has deepened strains in U.S.-Russian ties, already difficult because of differences over human rights and Moscow's hosting of Edward Snowden, a spy agency contractor who revealed details of U.S. surveillance programs. Putin said Obama had not requested Snowden's extradition on Friday, adding that it would be impossible anyway.

Obama later met rights activists, including gay rights campaigners, to show support for civil society in Russia, where critics say Putin has clamped down on dissent in his third term.

But some invitees declined to attend, citing what they said were repeated changes in the timing of the meeting. One added her voice to warnings against a military strike on Syria.

The G20 achieved unprecedented cooperation between developed and emerging nations to stave off economic collapse during the 2009 financial crisis, but the harmony has since waned.

Despite their differences, the leaders agreed on a summit declaration that the global economy is improving although it is too early to declare an end to crisis.

The leaders stuck closely to a statement issued by G20 finance ministers in July that demanded monetary policy changes must be "carefully calibrated and clearly communicated".

"Our most urgent need is to increase the momentum of the global recovery, generate higher growth and better jobs, while strengthening the foundations for long-term growth and avoiding policies that could cause the recovery to falter or promote growth at other countries' expense," the leaders said.

Member states are at odds as the U.S. recovery gains pace, Europe lags, and developing economies worry about the impact of the Federal Reserve's plans to stop a bond-buying program that has helped stimulate the U.S. economy.

The BRICS emerging economies - Russia, China, India, South Africa and Brazil - have agreed to commit $100 billion to a currency reserve pool that could help defend against a balance of payments crisis, but the mechanism will take time to set up.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman, additional writing by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Peter Cooney)

Germany to back G20 statement on Syria, Westerwelle says

Sat Sep 7, 2013 7:31am EDT

VILNIUS (Reuters) -

Germany will sign a Group of 20 statement supported by 10 nations calling for a strong international response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Saturday.

"After we saw this excellent and very wise position of the European Union, the (German) Chancellor (Angela Merkel) and myself decided that we support now the G20 statement," Westerwelle said. While the statement called for a strong international response, it fell short of supporting military strikes on Syria that U.S. President Barack Obama is considering.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; editing by Mike Collett-White)


Factbox: Where G20 members stand on military action against Syria

Fri Sep 6, 2013 10:04pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

President Barack Obama had mixed results as he lobbied members of the G20 leading world economies to bolster international support for a military response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Here is where members of the G20 stand on intervention in Syria:


Called, in a joint statement with nine other G20 members plus Spain, for "a strong international response." A senior U.S. official said that statement was an implicit endorsement of use of military power even though it did not say so explicitly.

"The position we adopted was correct," Foreign Minister Bob Carr said, according to the Melbourne Herald Sun.

"If the world doesn't respond in a way that's appropriate and proportionate, then other dictators will think they can gas children."


Signed the joint statement.

"The world cannot wait for endless failed processes that can only lead to increased suffering in Syria and regional instability," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

"We support efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons."


Signed the joint statement.

"It is time for the international community to assume its responsibilities and to take deterrent measures against the Syrian regime," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told Al Jazeera last week.


Obama says there is sufficient evidence to conclude Syria President Bashar al-Assad authorized a chemical weapons attack that killed 1,400 people August 21 and has called for a military retaliation in response. He has put the matter to a vote before the U.S. Congress and is seeking international support before taking any action.

U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice drafted a statement endorsing military action against Syria and officials sought endorsements from other members of the G20.


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told fellow G-20 leaders in Russia that India opposes any military action against Syria that is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, Kyodo news reported, citing Indian media.

"Whatever happens should be under the U.N.'s auspices and not outside the framework," Montek Singh Ahluwalia, an aide to Singh, is quoted as saying.

Singh told G20 counterparts there needs to be greater certainty about what happened during an alleged chemical weapons attack August 21 and that it is important to await the results of a United Nations investigation.


Is a staunch ally of Syria and opposes any military action.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said "anything that is outside the U.N. Security Council is aggression, except self-defense. Now what Congress and the U.S. Senate are doing in essence is legitimizing aggression. This is inadmissible in principle."


Agreed to coordinate positions on settling the Syria standoff with Russia, according to an Interfax report.

"Any attack on Syria without (U.N. Security Council) authorization would constitute a grave violation of international law that would severely undermine international order," the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement August 29.


Signed the joint statement.

"Almost all the leaders who attended the summit are closely following the massacre the Syrian regime carried out on its people and the leaders have expressed that an operation is extremely necessary against Damascus," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.


Was among countries that opposed military operations in Syria, Putin told reporters, according to Interfax.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry has condemned any military strike against Syria, saying it would only make matters worse.


Was among countries that opposed military operations in Syria, Putin told reporters, according to Interfax.


Neither signed the joint statement nor was mentioned by Putin as among those opposing military operations.


Signed the joint statement.

French President Francois Hollande has been one of the main international voices calling for military action against Syria over the chemical attack.

"We shall await the report of the inspectors just as we will await (U.S.) Congress," he said in St. Petersburg.


Only European nation at G20 to decline signing joint statement because Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted to let European Union officials have a chance to weigh in first, according to a senior U.S. administration official.

Merkel has said that Syrian President Bashar-al Assad's government should not go unpunished over what the United States said was its use of internationally banned chemical weapons on August 21, an attack that killed hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb.

But she has not explicitly come out publicly in favor of military action.


Signed the joint statement.

However, Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta said recently that Italy would not join any military operation against Damascus without authorization from the U.N. Security Council.

"If the United Nations doesn't back it, Italy will not participate," he said but added that Italy fully backed international condemnation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"The international community has to respond strongly to Assad and his regime and to the horrors which have been committed," he said.


Signed the joint statement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vital parliamentary vote last month meant to pave the way for Britain to join a looming military strike against Syria.

However, Cameron also said Obama was right to press ahead with possible military action against Damascus as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had ignored his warnings about using chemical weapons.


Has backed Russia in opposing military intervention.

"Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price - it will cause a hike in the oil price," Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told a briefing before the start of the G20 leaders' talks.


Was among countries that opposed military operations in Syria, Putin told reporters, according to Interfax.


Signed the statement.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shied away from public statements about Syria.

But Obama said after meeting with him at the G20 that Japan shared the U.S. view that chemical weapons use in Syria was a violation of international law that must be addressed.


Signed the statement.


Did not sign the statement.

"There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters. "Only a political solution can end the terrible bloodshed."

Van Rompuy said he respected "calls for action" but said the response to the Syrian crisis had to move through the United Nations.

Fair Use Notice

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.




Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & &