Russia torpedoes G8 efforts to oust Assad
Final communique does not even mention Assad’s name
Britain’s prime minister David Cameron (5th from left) has a group photograph taken with (l-r) European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso; Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe; German chancellor Angela Merkel; Russia’s president Vladimir Putin; Cameron; US president Barack Obama; France’s president Francois Hollande; Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper; Italy’s prime minister Enrico Letta and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, at the G8 Summit, at Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh, today. Photograpgh: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters
Anti-G8 protestors break through the security fence surrounding the G8 Summit in the Lough Erne Golf Resort in County Fermanagh last night. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
Police remove anti-G8 signs from the security fence at the G8 summit venue at Lough Erne. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
US president Barack Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin meet at the G8 summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh last night. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
G8 leaders (from top centre, clockwise) Britain’s prime minister David Cameron, US president Barack Obama, France’s president Francois Hollande, Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper, Italy’s prime minister Enrico Letta, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin at a working session at the Lough Erne golf resort this morning. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters
US president Barack Obama walks with Britain’s prime minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny after a G8 summit group photograph at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters
Russia’s Vladimir Putin derailed Barack Obama’s efforts to win backing for the downfall of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad at a G8 summit today, warning the West that arms supplied to the rebels could be used for attacks on European soil.
After two days of intense talks that fell far short of what Mr Obama and British prime minister David Cameron had been hoping for, Mr Putin fumed against Western moves to supply weapons to rebels while defending his own supplies of arms for Assad.
“We are supplying weapons under legal contracts to the legal government. That is the government of president Assad. And if we are going to sign such contracts, we are going to deliver,” the Russian president said.
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Mr Putin, isolated at the summit, repeatedly clashed with other leaders over the fate of Assad and resisted pressure to agree to anything that would imply Assad should step down.
In the end, a G8 communique did not even mention Assad’s name. The summit in a secluded golf resort in Co Fermanagh ended with G8 leaders calling for peace talks to be held as soon as possible to resolve the Syrian civil war.
This has broadly been their position for months. No date was mentioned for a peace conference called by Moscow and Washington, which was supposed to take place next month but now appears to be on hold, after the United States announced last week that it would arm the rebels.
A source at the summit said the peace conference would now be put off at least until August. Mr Putin struck a defiant tone: he hinted that Mr Obama had tried to isolate Russia, that other leaders were divided, and that plans to send arms to Syrian rebels could lead to murders such as that of a British soldier on a busy London street last month.
On the issue corporate tax evasion, G8 nations agreed a pact to crack down on tax havens and stop multi-national companies shifting profits around the world to avoid paying their fair share.
Mr Cameron said that the agreement secured at the Lough Erne had the potential to “rewrite the rules” on tax and transparency.
The Lough Erne Declaration — signed by the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia — promises to “fight the scourge of tax evasion” by ensuring automatic exchange of tax information and forcing companies to reveal the identities of their ultimate owners.
To tackle corruption linked to the trade in resources like oil, gas and minerals in the developing world, extractive industries and governments should publish details of what money changes hands, the agreement said.