KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov 22, (Agencies): President Barack Obama said Sunday that the United States and its international partners “will not relent” in the fight against the Islamic State group and that the world would not accept the extremists’ attacks on civilians in Paris and elsewhere as the “new normal.”
“The most powerful tool we have is to say we are not afraid,” Obama said as he wrapped up a nine-day trip to Turkey and Asia that was shadowed by terrorist attacks.
The president also pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to align himself with the US-led coalition, noting that IS has been accused of bringing down a Russian passenger jet last month, killing 224 people.
“He needs to go after the people who killed Russian citizens,” he said of Putin.
The president spoke in Malaysia shortly before departing for Washington. His trip also took him to the Philippines and Turkey, where he met with Putin on the sidelines of an international summit.
While Russia has stepped up its air campaign in Syria, Obama said Moscow has focused its attention on moderate rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, a Russian ally. He called on Russia to make a “strategic adjustment” and drop its support for Assad, insisting the violence in Syria cannot be stopped as long as Assad is in office.
“It will not work to keep him in power,” Obama said. “We can’t stop the fighting.”
Obama promised that Islamic extremists would find no safe haven anywhere, while the leader of Muslim-majority Malaysia branded the Islamic State group as a “new evil” that has blasphemed the religion, and urged world leaders to confront it forcefully.
Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak were speaking separately Saturday at an Asian summit taking place against the backdrop of recent violence including the bombing of a Russian jet over Egypt, a suicide bombing in Beirut, a series of attacks in Paris, the slaying of a Malaysian hostage by militants in the Philippines and Friday’s attack on a Mali hotel.
Najib said he had planned to begin his speech by talking about the achievements of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, of which he is the current chairman.
“But the events of recent days and weeks have cast a shadow over us all,” he said in remarks to open the ASEAN summit. “Be assured that we stand with you against this new evil that blasphemes against the name of Islam.”
“The perpetrators … do not represent any race, religion or creed. They are terrorists and should be confronted as such, with the full force of the law,” Najib said in a stirring speech that repeatedly emphasized the tolerance of Islam.
He also cautioned that a military solution alone will not be enough to defeat terrorism. “It is the ideology propagated by these extremists that is the cause of this sadistic violence. … We must not lose sight of the fact that the ideology itself must be exposed as the lie that it is — and vanquished. For it is not Islamic. It cannot be.”
Later, Obama spoke at a business conference on the sidelines of the summit, and referred to the Mali attack that left 20 people dead, including one American.
“With allies and partners, the United States will be relentless to those who target our citizens. We will continue to root out terrorist networks. We will not allow these killers to have a safe haven,” Obama said, adding that the world is determined “to push back on the hateful ideologies that fuel this terrorism.”
After his speech, Obama visited a school where many of the children are Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar. In an apparent rebuke to those who are against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, Obama said that the Rohingya children “were indistinguishable from any child in America.”
Envisaged in 2002, work on the community began in 2007, and it’s already delivering benefits to the region. Najib listed them in his speech:
– Tariffs on trade in the region have been reduced to zero, or near zero, helping bring down prices of goods;
– Unemployment is down to 3.3 percent;
– Citizens enjoy visa-free travel through nine out of 10 countries;
– Citizens are allowed to work in other countries in the region in eight major sectors, including tourism.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Russia and the United States on Sunday to cooperate in rooting out terrorism and said he would unveil a comprehensive plan to fight extremism and violence early next year.
United States President Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev separately called on all countries to coordinate and thwart Islamic State after its recent devastating attack on a Russian plane and on multiple targets in Paris.
Ban said he counted on their support to wipe out a common enemy and the United Nations was gathering ideas from members towards a joint counter-terror strategy.
“All these terrorists and ideology extremists should be defeated in the name of humanity,” he said during a meeting in Malaysia with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the annual East Asia Summit.
“We need to unite. We need to show global solidarity to address … the common enemy of ISIL, Daesh, some other extremists and terrorist groups,” he said, referring to Islamic State.
US President Barack Obama at the same summit said Islamic State was “a bunch of killers with good social media” who would be thwarted by the United States and its allies.
“Destroying (Islamic State) is not only a realistic goal, we’re going to get it done,” he told a news conference.
“We will take back land they are currently in, take out their financing, hunt down leadership, dismantle their networks, supply lines and we will destroy them.”
Obama said it “would be helpful” if Russia directed its focus on tackling Islamic State and he hoped Moscow would agree to a leadership transition in Syria that meant its President Bashar al-Assad stepping down.
Obama on Sunday said he would host the leaders of 10 Southeast Asian nations next year as he rejected accusations that Middle East turmoil was distracting him from focusing on Asia.
Obama said he had invited leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the United States, insisting that good ties with Asian nations were “absolutely critical” to US security.
“I’m pleased they accepted and I look forward to continuing our work,” he said, speaking in Kuala Lumpur at the end of a marathon week of diplomacy which has taken in summits in Turkey, the Philippines and Malaysia.