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Counter-Terrorism Hovers Over G-20 Summit


The attacks in Paris and the war in Syria are dominating discussions between world leaders at the G20 summit in Turkey. President Obama is there and said the U.S. is ready to help France hunt down those responsible.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The skies have been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris just a day and a half ago.

MARTIN: NPR's Michele Kelemen joins us now on the line from Antalya, Turkey. Michele, how have the Paris attacks changed the tambour - the nature - of the conversations at the G20?

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Well, Rachel, there's a real sense of urgency here, I'd say, to step up the fight against ISIS but also to do more to resolve the war in Syria. You know, remember that's been left to fester. And it's become this breeding ground for terrorism. So President Obama is talking about both of these aspects, the fight on ISIS and supporting diplomacy. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working on the diplomatic side. He arrived here after a day of meetings in Vienna to hash out a plan for a cease-fire and a political process in Syria, one that all the countries involved say they want to pursue. We'll see how that goes. The U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, here in Turkey, is expressing some hope. He calls this a rare moment of diplomatic opportunity for Syria.

MARTIN: Turkey, which is hosting the meeting, had already made Syria a priority even before the Paris attacks. What do Turkish leaders want from the G20. specifically?

KELEMEN: Syria is just about - just over 300 miles from where we are now in this coastal town of Antalya, Turkey. And there are about 2 million Syrians who have sought refuge in Turkey. Syria is - you know, has created the worst refugee crisis since World War II. And not only Turkey but also other neighbors are overwhelmed. So what Turkey wants is to get the rich countries in the world - the G20 - to agree on some burden-sharing, both in terms of humanitarian aid but also in resettling more refugees.

MARTIN: The attacks, though, seem to be sparking some level of second-guessing in Europe about taking in so many migrants.

KELEMEN: Yeah. I mean, investigators are looking into the possibility that one of the attackers arrived in Europe only in October along one of these migrant routes. I spoke to some activists who were here at the G20. And they say they are worried about a backlash against refugees and against migrants. But the head of the European Commission, who's also here, told the news conference that he's hoping that won't be the case. He said the attackers were criminals, not migrants, and that Europe should not change its plans to resettle those who are fleeing the Syrian civil war.

MARTIN: We should point out, Russian President Vladimir Putin is at the summit. Russia has been backing Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria. How has he been greeted in this meeting?

KELEMEN: Well, you know, some here - and particularly Turkey and the Saudis - are worried about Russia's military action, saying they're only making the migrant crisis worse and emboldening President Assad. Vladimir Putin denies that. He met today with the so-called BRIC, Brazil, South Africa, India. And he was saying that what's called for to deal with both the migrant issue and terrorism is more coordination. And I also have to say it's been really interesting. He's definitely no longer isolated over his actions in Ukraine. He's a real player here. President Obama isn't planning to have a sit-down meeting with him but did shake his hand and exchanged some words. And Secretary of State John Kerry spent a lot of time yesterday talking to Russia's foreign minister about Syria and trying to move ahead and get on the same page, even if they still don't agree about Assad.

MARTIN: Michele Kelemen, NPR's diplomatic correspondent, reporting from the G20 summit in Turkey. Thanks so much, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.