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Obama, Cameron urge Putin to focus Syria attacks on Islamic State

By Andrew V. Pestano
Obama, Cameron urge Putin to focus Syria attacks on Islamic State
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, and British Prime Minister David Cameron have urged for Russian President Vladimir Putin's, left, support in fighting against the Islamic State during the G-20 Summit. The Islamic State -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL -- has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 on Friday. Pool photo by Chip Somodevilla/UPI | License Photo

BELEK, Turkey, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop targeting "moderate" anti-Assad rebels in Syria and focus on attacking the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris on Friday in which 129 people were killed.

Cameron met with Putin Monday at the G-20 Summit in Turkey. It was the first time the two heads of state had met in a year.

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"We have our differences with the Russians, not least because they've done so much to degrade the non-Isil opposition to Assad, people who could be part of the future of Syria," Cameron told reporters before the meeting. "But the conversation I want to have with Vladimir Putin is to say look, there is one thing we agree about which is we'd be safer in Russia, we'd be safer in Britain if we destroy ISIL. That's what we should be focusing on."

Obama met with Putin Sunday on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting.

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The multiple and coordinated attacks on groups of young people at a rock concert, football match and at cafes in Paris on Friday night have renewed urgent calls to resolve the crisis in Syria and to bring an end to the civil war there. The Islamic State -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL -- is thought to have its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, with a second stronghold in Mosul, Iraq.

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The United States has been bombing targets in Syria and Iraq for more than a year. Russia recently began bombing rebel positions in Syria in support of the government of Bashar al-Assad. Russia has said that it is only bombing Islamic State targets, but the United States says its intelligence shows the majority of Russian strikes are on rebels not linked to IS.

After the Sunday meeting with Putin, Obama said he "welcomed efforts by all nations to confront the terrorist group ISIL" and noted the importance of Russia's military efforts in Syria focusing on the group.

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More than 3 million Syrians are thought to have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq and nearly 800,000 have reached Europe in recent months.

Speaking at the G-20 summit, European Council President Donald Tusk said Russia's involvement in the Syrian civil war has increased the number of Syrians fleeing to Europe.

"We need not only more cooperation, but also more good will, especially from Russian action on the ground in Syria," Tusk said, warning that Russia's operations will "only result [in] a new wave of refugees. And we have some signals that in fact it's started.''

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