G8 summit: Obama, Putin at odds on Syria but seek end to civil war

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 09:41

Zee Media Bureau

Enniskillen (UK): Despite having serious differences in their views on Syria at G8 summit, US President Barack Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin agreed to a common “peaceful” end to the civil war and push ahead the two day summit in Ireland.

The two day G8 summit held at Lough Erne, County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland saw the issue of Syria conflict looming large with wide rifts in the G8 nations’ stance over various facets of the matter.

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, who hadn’t met in person since last year, had a one-to-one talk over Syria and found themselves disagreeing at most of the points but both spoke of “an intention to stop the violence in Syria” and pledged to try to keep alive a frail and much-delayed effort to hold a Geneva peace conference.

"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," said Putin.

He said he and Obama agreed that the vicious civil war that has killed at least 90,000 people must end "peacefully" and through talks.

Obama and Putin, who already have a frosty relationship, did not exert efforts to hide their clashing views from media as both wore tensed looks while talking to the reporters.

But despite the differences, they announced Obama would go to Moscow on September 3-4 for a full-scale summit, expanding a previously announced trip that includes the G20 summit in St Petersburg.

Other than differences between Russia and the US, there were also fissures among the three Western nations, despite their shared belief that Assad must leave power. Britain and France appear unwilling — at least for now — to join President Barack Obama in arming the Syrian rebels, a step the US president reluctantly finalized last week.

The lack of consensus even among allies underscored the vexing nature of the two-year conflict in Syria, where at least 93,000 people have been killed as rebels struggle to overtake Assad forces buttressed by support from Hezbollah, Iran and Russia.

U.S. officials say Obama’s decision to send the rebels weapons and ammunition for the first time was an attempt to increase their military strength in order to bolster their political bargaining power. But the American inventory for the rebels is not yet expected to include the high-powered weaponry sought by the opposition, raising questions about whether the deepening U.S. involvement will be effective in changing the situation on the ground.

The White House also announced Monday an additional $300 million in humanitarian aid for Syria and neighboring countries absorbing refugees escaping the violence. The new money brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to $800 million, according to the White House.

Obama’s decision to arm the rebels coincided with the White House’s announcement last week that it had definitive evidence of multiple instances of chemical weapons use by Assad’s regime against the opposition. Britain and France have also accused Assad of using the deadly agent sarin, while Russia has publicly questioned the credibility of chemical weapons evidence.

With Agency Inputs

First Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 09:40

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