BERLIN, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama and European leaders agreed Friday to work cooperatively to ensure stability in the Middle East and Syria, expressing grave concerns about the continuing humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, Syria, and emphasizing the importance of maintaining mutual efforts in NATO.
Obama, seeking to allay fears of major policy shifts under President-elect Donald Trump, urged his European counterparts to continue "seeking solutions to common challenges with the incoming U.S. administration on the basis of the core values that define the United States and Europe as open democracies." Obama joined leaders from Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy and France in backing NATO as a way to safeguard security for member nations.
"President Obama expressed confidence that, even at a moment of great change, democratic values have done more to advance human freedom and progress than any other system in history, and will continue to do so going forward," the White House said.
Obama, in his final international trip before the end of his presidency on Jan. 20, met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to officially discuss mutually problematic world affairs, but concerns about Trump's campaign rhetoric became the prevailing undertone.
World leaders also condemned Russia for disregarding its commitments under the Minsk agreement and decided sanctions against Russia for its involvement in Ukraine must remain in place. They also agreed on the necessity of working together to secure a diplomatic resolution to the conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine.
"The leaders expressed concern over the continued lack of a durable cease-fire and reaffirmed the importance of creating a security environment that is conducive to moving forward with free and fair local elections in the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk," the White House said.
Also discussed was the offensive to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State militant group. Obama urged world leaders to continue efforts to thwart terror plots across Europe and to continue efforts root out the cause of migration to Europe.
"The president emphasized that de-escalation and a diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict are the only viable ways to end the suffering, prevent another migration crisis and move toward a political transition," the White House said.
Obama is expected to wrap up his six-day trip in Lima, Peru, on Friday to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.