David Cameron says he is prepared to work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islamic State, but also warns that President Bashar al Assad “cannot stay as leader” in Syria.
The Prime Minister and the Russian President are among the leaders attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Amid a Russian military build-up in the region, Mr Putin has argued that support for the Assad regime is the best way of defeating the militants of IS – also referred to as ISIL – who have seized control of a large swathe of the country.
A spokeswoman for Mr Cameron said: “We are clear ISIL poses a threat as much to Russia as it does to Europe and other countries around the world and therefore we should be able to find a way forward to work together.”
Mr Cameron has been considering proposals for British airstrikes in Syria and believes there is “a strong case on taking action”, but wants to proceed on the basis of getting parliamentary backing.
However, his mood for cooperation with Russia is tempered with a warning that the UK also wants to rid Syria of President Assad. The PM’s spokeswoman added: “ISIL and Assad are both the enemies of the Syrian people.
“We are still of the view that we need to tackle the threat from ISIL but we also need to find a political solution that leads to a transition away from President Assad to a different leader that can unite the people of Syria and an inclusive government that the international community can engage with to tackle the threat ISIL.
“The PM’s view is that there is not a long term stable, peaceful future for Syria, where Syrian people can return home, with President Assad as leader.”
Mr Cameron is also expected to call on other nations “to step up their assistance to the refugee crisis” caused by the conflict in Syria. Britain is currently the second largest donator to the region after the US, offering £1.1bn in aid.
Speaking at the UN later today, the PM is expected to say: “When times are darkest – like for the millions of Syrians forced from their homes – aid can offer hope.
“And we know that well-spent long-term aid works wonders. “But honouring our aid commitments isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s in all our interests to address the deepest causes of instability and insecurity in the world today.”