During the G20 summit in Turkey, President Barack Obama interacted with President Vladimir Putin discussing a possible military cooperation between Moscow and Washington to stop the group calling itself "Islamic State."
After weeks of accusing Moscow of trying to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by bombing US-backed rebels, Obama changed his tune on Wednesday, praising Putin as a "constructive partner" in a nascent diplomatic effort to resolve Syria's civil war. Putin, too, has issued conciliatory signals, softening his tone about the U.S. and calling for the US and Russia to "stand together" against the extremist threat.
Obama suggested that Russia might be reorienting its military campaign in Syria toward "Islamic State" (IS) targets following the downing of a Russian jet in Egypt - a step the president said "we very much want to see."
IS has claimed responsibility for the October 31 crash that killed 224, and Putin has vowed to hunt down those responsible and punish them.
French President Hollande along with Russia's President Putin. Hollande aims to establish an anti-terror coalition.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that following the carnage in Paris it was now clear that global powers should unite without any preconditions on the fate of Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad.
"It seems to me there are no longer any doubts that it is simply unacceptable to put forward any pre-conditions for joining forces in the fight against terror," Lavrov told reporters. Western powers including the US, France and UK had repeatedly said earlier in Syria's civil war that Assad's government had lost all credibility and would have to go - but their tone on this has softened of late.
In a sign of an emerging Russia-West axis, French President Francois Hollande announced he would travel to Washington next week and Moscow two days later to discuss stepping up cooperation against IS with Obama and Putin. Hollande said after Friday's attacks, and again on Wednesday after raids in the capital, that France was at "war" with IS.
A new opportunity
Forging an alliance with the West to fight IS would offer Putin a chance to raise Russia's global clout and prestige and to repair relations that were shattered by the Ukraine crisis.
Putin's high-intensity air campaign makes him a major player in the Syrian conflict, and Russia's influence over its ally, Assad, gives it a key role in diplomatic efforts to negotiate a political solution.
Twelve French aircraft dropped a total of 20 bombs Sunday night in the biggest air strikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors war casualties, said that at least 33 militants were been killed in airstrikes on Raqqa over the past three days.
The airstrikes on the Islamic State's stronghold in northern Syria since the Paris attacks include Russian airstrikes near the Grand Mosque and the museum building that killed up to 13 civilians in addition to a number of IS militants on Novermber 14 along with French warplanes bombed the city from November 15 through November 17.
hf/msh (AP, AFP)