G8 meeting: Obama and Putin push for Syria summit

 

The meeting between the two leaders at times appeared tense

The US and Russian presidents have acknowledged at the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland they have a widely different stance on Syria, but did agree to push for a summit in Geneva.

After face-to-face talks, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin said they shared a common desire to end the violence.

Both also said they were optimistic on Iran, after its presidential election.

Earlier, the G8 nations discussed the global economy, with the leaders agreeing world prospects remained weak.

Other nations joining the UK, US and Russia for the 39th Summit of the Group of Eight (G8) in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, are Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The G8 leaders headed into a working dinner late in the evening, where Syria was expected to be top of the agenda.

'Common ground'

Mr Putin and Mr Obama met for about two hours on the sidelines of the summit.

Analysis

David Cameron's approach is to explore and flesh out those areas where Vladimir Putin and his Western colleagues can agree. Might the G8, for example, rally around such themes as agreement that there should be no use of chemical weapons in Syria or that all "extremists" should be beyond the pale?

Might they start to define what the notional "day one" of a transitional government in the country might look like? Could they back the proposition that there should be unfettered access for the Red Cross and Red Crescent to all Syrian territory?

Call it a form of "diplomatic lateral thinking", but Mr Cameron clearly believes that this may be the only way around the logjam that - as far as Syria is concerned - threatens to send leaders home from this summit more divided than ever.

Correspondents say that both leaders looked tense as they addressed journalists afterwards, with the Russian president regularly looking at the floor.

Mr Putin said: "Our positions do not fully coincide, but we are united by the common intention to end the violence, to stop the number of victims increasing in Syria, to resolve the problems by peaceful means, including the Geneva talks."

Mr Obama said the two leaders had instructed their teams to press ahead with trying to organise the peace conference in Switzerland.

Neither the rebels nor the Syrian government have yet fully committed to the proposed Geneva talks, which would seek to end more than two years of unrest that has left an estimated 93,000 people dead.

Mr Obama and Mr Putin did say that they had agreed to meet in Moscow in September.

The White House also announced that Mr Obama would tell the other G8 leaders that the US would provide another $300m (£190m) in aid for refugees inside and outside Syria.

Earlier UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is hosting the summit, had said he hoped to find "common ground" on Syria.

The US said last week it was prepared to arm opposition forces, saying it had evidence that President Bashar al-Assad's forces had used chemical weapons on a "small scale".

Mr Cameron, who backed the recent lifting of EU arms sanctions against the rebels, said on Monday that no decision had yet been made on whether the UK would do the same.

G8: What is on the agenda?

Monday:

  • 15:45: Official arrivals
  • 16:45: Global economy
  • 18:15: Bilateral meetings
  • 20:00: Foreign policy

Tuesday:

  • 07:00: Bilateral meetings
  • 08:30: Counter-terrorism
  • 10:30: Tax transparency
  • 14:30: Closing talks
  • 15:30: UK PM press conference
  • 15:45: Other leaders' press conferences

All timings BST

In an interview in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday, Mr Assad denied that his military had used chemical weapons, and warned that arming the rebels would result in "the direct export of terrorism to Europe".

"Terrorists will return to fight, equipped with extremist ideology," he said.

On Monday, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said of the possibility of a no-fly zone over Syria: "I think we fundamentally would not allow this scenario."

EU-US deal

The formal talks on Monday covered the global economy.

In their statement after the session, the leaders said prospects remained weak but added that action in the US, Japan and eurozone had helped ease the situation.

"Downside risks in the euro area have abated over the past year, but it remains in recession.

"The US recovery is continuing and the deficit is declining rapidly in the context of a continuing need for further progress towards balanced medium-term fiscal sustainability."

Ahead of the first session, the US and EU members of the G8 announced that negotiations were to begin on a wide-ranging free-trade deal.

Start Quote

President Obama's rhetoric may inspire school children, but it is unlikely to melt Mr Putin”

End Quote

Mr Cameron, Mr Obama and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso held a press conference on the proposed EU-US deal.

Mr Cameron said a successful agreement would have a greater impact than all other world trade deals put together.

"This is a once-in-a-generation prize and we are determined to seize it," said Mr Cameron.

He said the deal "could add as much as £100bn ($157bn; 117bn euros) to the EU economy, £80bn to the US economy and as much as £85bn to the rest of the world".

Mr Obama said the deal was a priority for the US and he hoped that it would create an economic alliance as strong as the diplomatic and security alliances the two sides enjoyed.

President Obama, on his first visit to Northern Ireland, delivered a public address at the Waterfront Hall centre in Belfast before travelling on to Lough Erne.

Tax evasion

On Tuesday, Mr Cameron will hope to make progress on tax transparency after agreeing a deal on the issue over the weekend with British overseas territories and Crown dependencies.

He has made no secret of his desire to tackle tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.

Tuesday will also cover counter-terrorism issues.

G8 facts

  • Informal, exclusive body aimed at tackling global challenges
  • Established in 1975 in Rambouillet, France
  • Original members: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US
  • Later members: Canada (joined at 1976 summit, San Juan, Puerto Rico), Russia (joined at 1998 summit, Birmingham, UK)

As the event started allegations were made in The Guardian newspaper on Monday, that Britain had spied on delegates who attended two G20 meetings in London in 2009.

The newspaper reported that documents, leaked by the ex-CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, showed that British intelligence monitored the computers of foreign politicians and officials.

British spies are accused of setting up internet cafes to read delegates' email traffic and penetrating the security on officials' BlackBerrys to monitor email messages and phone calls. Targets are alleged to have included the Turkish finance minister and possibly 15 others in his party.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the allegations, if true, would "constitute a scandal".

Observers say the revelations could cause tensions among delegates attending the G8, but Mr Cameron refused to be drawn, saying he "never comments on security and intelligence issues".

Some 8,000 police officers are being deployed for the summit.

On Monday, up to 1,000 protesters began a march from Enniskillen to the summit site, championing a range of causes from anti-globalisation to gay rights.

The colourful parade set off it festive spirit and organisers said they did not expect any trouble.

 

More on This Story

Syria conflict

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 166.

    How on earth,did we let the lunatics take over the asylum...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 165.

    No to intervention in Syria that will just cause more killing of civilians and children. Different Islamic factions is none of our business. No to geting our soldiers killed in a totally pointless, expensive and wasteful intervention.

    If politicians and telly reporters think intervention is good then they should pickup the guns, get out there, and see if they think so when they're getting killed.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 164.

    "A four-mile (6.5km) long, 3m-high metal fence surrounds the golf resort where the summit takes place. Some 8,000 police officers are being deployed for the summit."

    Money is no objects when it comes to protecting these people. Politicians talk so bravery about tackling terrorists and the public take the brunt of the attacks

  • Comment number 163.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 162.

    Mr.Cameron please think about our (British) economic issues rather than worry about Syria. They will sort thier own issues themselves. Thank you.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 161.

    When a British politician says: "No decision has been made to arm the Syrian rebels." He is either a liar or incredibly naive.
    We sell £billions of arms to Saudi Arabia and other gulf states. It is these countries that are supplying British arms to Sunni rebels/terrorists/al qaeda, not just in Syria, but in Iraq which is also descending into a sectarian civil war.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 160.

    I wonder which way this will go- Scenario A the people of Syria face misery and destruction for years to come-Scenario B the people of Syria face misery and destruction for years to come-Scenario C everyone wades in and the Syrian people face misery and destruction for years to come to then take the title of most mined and militarized place on earth with other sorted countries like Libya,Iraq,

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 159.

    Cameron just wants more Solders with no Arms or Legs for the next Olympics. I guess!

  • rate this
    +48

    Comment number 158.

    154.120.Rebecca Riot
    Rebel leaders engage in cannibalism.
    The rebels include terrorists, the Al-Nusra Front.
    The rebels are also alleged to have used WMDs.
    The rebels force child-soldiers to behead POWs.
    Assad has committed to talks in Geneva, the "rebels" refuse.

    Assad is a bad man but, you continual denial of the facts & attacks against those who disagree with you, discredits you.

  • rate this
    +87

    Comment number 157.

    It's a complete no win situation for any foreign intervention, if you support the rebels you're inevitably going to empower extremist groups looking to take advantage of the situation, if you support Assad you're supporting what is clearly a pretty cruel regime. Solution? Don't intervene and dont add fuel to the fire, give humanitarian aid and help the country further when the war has ended

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 156.

    The USA will now have to add itself to the list of countries that support terrorism and presumably impose sanctions on itself.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 155.

    Leave them to it. It's about time our leaders realised that meddling in middle eastern affairs, especially militarily, serves only to fan the flames. Sad though it is, you have to accept that many innocent people will die along with the idiots, but only they can resolve their own problems.

  • rate this
    -35

    Comment number 154.

    The Little Britain UKIP brigade are heavy on here as usual. It must be the economic downturn under the current right wing mismanagement that is the basic cause of it?

    Churchill must be turning in his grave at this slip in the nation

    I am just waiting for cannibal Sally to come back spitting more snakes at me?

    Where have all the proper decent minded people got to?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 153.

    @146
    "to fear & greed above human solidarity"

    How can you preach "human solidarity" when nobody is united on how to best deal with these problems?

    You seem to forget that those nations claiming to want "peace" also happen to be those who are the world's biggest arms dealers - counter-intuitive, no?

    Your reactionary politics only causes military campaigns, more deaths and more poverty.

  • Comment number 152.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +47

    Comment number 151.

    Britain, a modern 21st century democracy, where the government - elected on a minority of a low turn-out - does whatever it wants, irrespective of the majority views of the populace.

    Sure, we can afford hundreds of millions to run elections for unwanted Police Crime Commissioners. Balloting the people on wars though, impossible apparently.

    And we want to impose this 'democracy' elsewhere?

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 150.

    What with the Arab spring, including a long wet spring in syria, the Turks saying to their government, you rule on our behalf, remember that, I think that the Euro leaders at the G8 should be keeping an eye on their own gate. It could go down like dominoes.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 149.

    i live in the middle east and in many respects it is like a war zone, poverty and tension etc! dave really does need to do something about it, not sure obama and his other political pals from around the globe will want to help fix it though!

    oh by the way, i mean the middle east of england, the east midlands!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 148.

    At least the G8 can talk with Putin to try and stop further import of arms to Syria and decide together all 8 will do the same. What have the Arab League done to stop the bloodshed as really it's their problem

  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 147.

    Is Syria of relevance to us in the UK? Indirectly yes, because our very lifestyles and comfort depend on the oil which comes out of that region. Instability therefore=bad.

    As for the economic relevance of the G8 summit - do I think the people there are the real power brokers? No, not really, they can only have a limited affect on how organised money behaves and beyond that they are impotent.

 

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