Speaking at a G20 leaders’ summit in Turkey, Obama described the killings in Paris claimed by IS as an attack on the civilised world and said the US would work with France to hunt down those responsible.
The two-day summit brings Obama and fellow world leaders just 500km from Syria, where a four-year conflict has transformed IS into a global security threat and spawned Europe’s largest migration flows since the Second World War.
“Traditionally the G20 has been a forum primarily to discuss economic issues facing the globe... [but] the sky has been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris just a day and a half ago,” Obama said in a statement after meeting Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president.
“The United States and its allies will redouble efforts to find a peaceful solution in Syria and prevent Islamic State militants from perpetrating attacks like those in Paris.”
Obama and his Western allies now face the question of how the West should respond after IS again demonstrated that it posed a threat far beyond its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Washington already expects France to retaliate by taking on a larger role in the US-led coalition’s bombing campaign against IS, which is also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh.
However, European Council president Donald Tusk said Russia, too, should focus its military operations on IS, rather than on the Syrian opposition which is battling President Bashar al-Assad, urging co-operation between Washington and Moscow.
“It should be our common aim to co-ordinate our actions against Daesh and for sure the co-operation between the United States and Russia is a crucial one,” said Tusk.
Russia joined the conflict a month and a half ago with air strikes in Syria, but has been targeting mainly areas controlled by the moderate Syrian opposition fighting Assad, its ally, rather than IS, its critics say.
Turkey and Western allies, by contrast, want Assad out.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the renewed sense of urgency to find a solution to the war in Syria after the Paris attacks, adding the world had a “rare moment” of diplomatic opportunity to end the violence.
Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin have no formal bilateral meeting planned. As the leaders moved into place for a group photo yesterday, Putin approached Obama and they shook hands, exchanging words for only a few brief moments.
Obama is also seeking to coax other European and Middle Eastern countries into more tangible steps to show their military commitment and will hold a bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, US officials said.
In a call late last month, the two leaders affirmed the need to co-operate in fighting IS.
Obama said he had also discussed in his meeting with Erdogan the progress that was made by foreign ministers in Vienna, who on Saturday outlined a plan for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, although differences over Assad’s fate still remained.
The co-ordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris puts Obama and other leaders of the world’s major economies under increased pressure to find common cause.