US, Russia tensions grow over Syria

US President Barack Obama at the UN (AAP)
US President Barack Obama at the UN (AAP)

Prime Minister John Key is about to be drawn into a major global stand-off over Syria, led by the United States and Russia.

Mr Key has arrived in New York for the United Nations' General Assembly, where the rise of Islamic State (IS) will dominate debate.

At the assembly are 193 countries, including 160 leaders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending the global gathering for the first time in a decade – and comes armed with some serious power plays.

It's effectively a stand-off between Russia and the United States as to who's leading the fight against IS.

New Zealand's part of what's widely considered a US-led coalition – but Russia has suddenly swept into the fray, insisting it's doing more.

To combat IS in Syria, Russia's giving masses of firepower, tanks and war planes to its ally Bashar al-Assad – the Syrian president accused of using chemical weapons and killing tens of thousands of his own people.

The move is causing countries like Britain and Australia to soften their hatred of Assad, no longer insisting he must go now.

Finally UN action looks possible on Syria, but with a focus on IS rather than the Assad regime, which spawned the country's civil war in 2011.

Presidents Obama and Putin meet one-on-one tomorrow. They also both make their speeches to the UN.

The tension couldn't be greater – the relationship between the US and Russia is the worst it's been since the Cold War.

It's a recognition of the crisis in Syria bringing them together, but it's mutual distrust and desire for power that could see any unity undone.

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