Obama Says Syria Focus Can’t Detract From Domestic Priorities

President Barack Obama said that while talks about the path ahead in Syria between the U.S. and Russia are at key juncture, U.S. policymakers also must focus on issues such as the budget, health care and immigration.

“Even as we have been spending a lot of time on the Syria issue and making sure that international attention is focused on the horrible tragedy that occurred there, it is still important to recognize that we got a lot more stuff to do in this government,” Obama said at the start of a Cabinet meeting at the White House, as Secretary of State John Kerry was in Geneva for talks with his Russian counterpart.

Obama cited the agenda still ahead of Congress in dealing with the budget for the next fiscal year and unfinished business on immigration and retooling government operations.

The next steps in dealing with the 2 1/2-year civil war in Syria hinge on the discussions between the U.S. and Russia, the most powerful ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In a rare direct appeal to the American public, Russian President Vladimir Putin used a New York Times opinion column to urge the Obama administration to keep pursuing a diplomatic route rather than taking military action.

Obama declined to comment on Putin’s article.

The talks between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are focused on the practicalities of securing, transporting, destroying and monitoring Syria’s chemicals arsenal, a U.S. official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“I am hopeful that the discussions with Secretary Kerry with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as some of the other players in this can yield a concrete result,” Obama said.

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