Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and French President Francois Hollande, who held a meeting hours before the G-20 summit talks on the global economy in St. Petersburg started, agreed that President Bashar al-Assad’s recent chemical weapons attack in Damascus suburb should not go unpunished.

The two leaders, who share the view that a military intervention in Syria is necessary, told each other during the meeting that they respect US President Barack Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval for a military strike, according to Prime Ministry sources who Today’s Zaman talked to.

Sources noted that Erdoğan presented Hollande with evidence about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime in Ghouta.

Erdoğan highlighted the need for the international community to act responsibly in the Syrian crisis and to take the necessary steps as soon as possible.

On his part, Hollande said France attaches great importance to bilateral relations with Turkey and that he wanted to pay a visit to Turkey as soon as possible.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, Economy Minister Mehmet Şimşek, Prime Ministry Undersecretary Efkan Ala and the prime minister’s advisor, İbrahim Kalın, were also present at the meeting.

It was not yet clear, at the time Today’s Zaman went to press, if Erdoğan was going to meet with Obama or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Wednesday, Erdoğan confirmed that he has plans to meet with Obama and Putin, calling the summit a good opportunity to discuss the war in Syria. Turkey’s prime minister is expected to push Obama for more assertive action and to try to convince Putin of the need for military action in Syria.

Before leaving for the summit on Wednesday, Erdoğan had criticized Putin’s refusal to rule out military action against the Syrian regime if it is found to be responsible for a chemical attack as too little, too late in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Erdoğan said he has been having difficulty understanding Putin’s statement that Russia could act with the West if presented with convincing evidence that the Bashar al-Assad regime had carried out a chemical attack that killed over 1,300 people.

Erdoğan also held talks with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong on the sidelines of the summit on Thursday.

The summit of the G-20 developed and developed economies is likely to be overshadowed by Syria, with host Russia opposing possible US-led military strikes to punish Assad for the alleged chemical weapons attack.

Some of leaders attending the summit want to forge a united front on growth, trade, banking transparency and fighting tax evasion.

Foreign ministers from key states in the G20 — which includes all five permanent United Nations Security Council members — are also expected to discuss Syria on the sidelines of the meeting.

While Obama, who is lobbying US Congress for a military strike authorization in Syria, and Hollande are likely to step up efforts to gather support for the intervention on the sidelines of the summit, UN special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is looking for a political solution to the crisis.

Brahimi will hold discussions on the sidelines of the summit to push for an international conference to be held on ending Syria’s civil war.

“While the world is focused on concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria we must push even harder for the International Conference on Syria to take place in Geneva,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

Russia and the United States announced in May they would try to bring the Syrian government and opposition representatives together at an international conference, dubbed Geneva II, but no date has been set and there is no sign that it could be held in the near future amid ongoing discussions over a military strike against Syria.

Obama, already at odds with Putin over Syria, cancelled a one-on-one meeting over the lack of progress on other issues, including Russia’s harboring of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who exposed US surveillance of emails and phone calls of Americans and foreigners.

source: todayszaman