Syria’s raging civil war was set to top the agenda at the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland starting on Monday, with President Barack Obama trying to get Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Syria’s most powerful ally, to help bring Bashar Assad to the negotiating table.
The leaders’ first private face-to-face meeting in about a year comes after Obama angered Moscow by authorizing American military support for the Syrian rebels.
Putin criticized the West’s position during talks with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron on the eve of the summit, saying the rebels were cannibals.
“I think you will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines, in front of the public and cameras,” Putin said at a tense joint news conference with Cameron on Sunday.
Russia, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the United States are members of the G-8.
Obama delivered a speech on sustaining Catholic-Protestant reconciliation 15 years on from the U.S.-brokered Good Friday peace accord on Monday morning in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, a glass-fronted building that would never have been built during the city’s long era of car bombs that ended with a 1997 Irish Republican Army cease-fire.
In his speech, Obama said that the peace achieved in Northern Ireland – part of the United Kingdom, unlike the Republic of Ireland just south of the border — after decades of violence known as the Troubles was an example for those struggling to end violence around the world.
“Beyond these shores right now in scattered corners of the world there are people living in the grip of conflict, ethnic conflict, religious conflict, tribal conflicts,” he said. “And they are groping for a way to find a way to discover how to move beyond the heavy hand of history — to put aside the violence…. And they’re wondering perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace we can too. So you’re their blueprint to follow.”
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