Obama and Putin agree to seek a diplomatic end to the Syria conflict but differ over whether President Bashar al-Assad should stay in power. Paul Chapman reports.
The tension between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin appeared evident at the annual heads of state lunch in New York. The two gave conflicting speeches at the start of the United Nations General Assembly. The Syrian conflict is one of the issues at the heart of the frosty relations. Obama says the U.S. is willing to work with Russia and others to end the fighting but not leaving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. (SOUNDBITE)(English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "The United States is prepared to work with any nation including Russia and Iran to resolve the conflict but we must recognise that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the post-war status quo." Putin, on the other hand, says there's no alternative than to co-operate with Assad's forces to combat Islamic State militants. He reiterated his position at a news conference after the two held a 90-minute meeting. (SOUNDBITE)(Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN SAYING: "I relate to my colleagues the American and French presidents with great respect but they aren't citizens of Syria and so shouldn't be involved in choosing the leadership of another country. It's Syria's business. Although of course this is a deep and bloody conflict so this is why I said that supporting the official authorities in the fight with the terrorists we, at the same time, will insist on a political solution and a political process." Despite the disagreement over Assad's future rule Obama's openly acknowledged the influence of both Russia and Iran in Syria. Both are staunch backers of Assad. Obama and Putin have, nonetheless agreed a diplomatic solution to the crisis is needed. They've also agreed their their respective armed forces in the region should hold talks to avoid coming into conflict themselves following Russia's recent military build-up there.