Syria Crisis Is Priority, Cameron Tells Obama

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Syria crisis is priority, Cameron tells Obama (Telegraph, Nov 9, 2012):

David Cameron has urged Barack Obama to join Britain in a new effort to “solve” Syria’s crisis as world leaders queued up to refer global problems to America’s newly re-elected president.

After visiting a camp in Jordan filled with Syrian refugees, the Prime Minister acknowledged the failure of Western efforts to halt the country’s bloodshed. “One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis,” said Mr Cameron.

“I wanted to hear for myself the stories of people who have been bombed and shot and blasted out of their homes in Syria by a deeply illegitimate and unpleasant regime that is raining down death and destruction on its own people.”

Mr Cameron described the testimony that he heard from refugees as “truly horrendous”, adding that it redoubled his “determination that now, with a newly-elected American president, we have got to do more to help this part of the world, to help Syria achieve transition.”

As for what this might entail, Mr Cameron said: “That means more help for the opposition, more pressure at the UN, more help for the refugees, more work with the neighbours but also a general sort of: ‘look, let’s be frank, what we’ve done for the last 18 months hasn’t been enough’.”

The Prime Minister added: “The slaughter continues, the bloodshed is appalling, the bad effects it’s having on the region, the radicalisation but also the humanitarian crisis that is engulfing Syria. So let’s work together on really pushing what more we can do, what other steps we can take to hasten the end of this regime.”

Downing Street sources made clear that “everything was on the table”. One official said: “The Prime Minister wants to come back and look at things that were on the table a year ago which we didn’t want to do then. He wants to put them back on the table. We haven’t ruled anything in and we haven’t ruled anything out.” Next week’s meeting of the National Security Council in London will be devoted to Syria.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, congratulated Mr Obama on his victory and pledged to work with the president “to ensure the vital security interests of Israel and the United States”. The two men have a frosty relationship and Mr Netanyahu’s overriding priority remains dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

However, Mr Obama will also have to decide whether to try to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, urged Mr Obama to use his new term to do exactly that, saying that he hoped America’s leader “continues his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East”.

The last peace talks collapsed in 2010 when Israel ended a temporary and partial freeze in the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. If Mr Obama tries to revive the negotiations, he could find himself on a collision course with Mr Netanyahu, who would resist any further restraints on settlement activity.

Mr Obama will also have to consider America’s increasingly fraught and important relationship with China. Xinhua, the state news agency in Beijing, stressed how the economies of America and China were “ever more interwoven”, adding: “A new US government perhaps should start to learn how to build a more rational and constructive relationship with China.”

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