G8 summit to focus on ending Russia’s support for Assad regime in Syria

President Putin admonishes the West for supporting rebels who “kill their enemies and eat their organs”

CNN News Wire | 6/17/2013, 12:24 p.m.
Though Syria is set to dominate discussion at this week’s Group of Eight summit, leaders began the conference Monday with ...
On the South Lawn at The White House are British PM David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron on March 14, 2012. Also at the ceremony are Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Emily Schultze/CNN

“It’s in Russia’s interest to join us in applying pressure on Bashar al-Assad to come to the table in a way that relinquishes his power and his standing in Syria, because we don’t see any scenario where he restores his legitimacy to lead the country,” Rhodes continued.

Other G8 nations have expressed similar viewpoints, calling on Russia to back United Nations intervention in Syria. Russia’s permanent position on the United Nations Security Council has made action through that body difficult for countries intent on removing al-Assad from power.

Before this week’s meetings, Obama spoke by videoconference with the leaders of Britain, France, Italy and Germany to discuss “ways to support a political transition to end the conflict” in Syria, the White House said.

Cameron — who met with Putin one on one Sunday — said that during the videoconference, Obama said further intervention into Syria “should be done on our own timeline.”

“We have already taken some decisions in that Britain is helping to give technical assistance, training, advice, help, shaping, to the Syrian opposition, and we do that along with the Americans, French and others and will continue to do that, and we will take time to make these decisions with our allies,” Cameron said.

The White House has not yet publicly specified what exact steps it would take to support members of Syria’s opposition, though sources have told CNN small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons would be part of the assistance package.

On Friday, Rhodes said further discussions with other nations were necessary to determine next steps.

“This is a fluid situation, so it’s necessary for (Obama) to consult with all the leaders at the G8 about both our chemical weapons assessment and the types of support we’re providing to the opposition,” Rhodes said.

The G8’s Syria discussions will come in a setting imbued with reminders of American diplomatic involvement overseas. The U.S.-brokered Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998, created the current system of government in Northern Ireland and helped end the decades-long violence between republican and loyalist forces in the region.

Before the G8 summit officially began, Obama delivered remarks on the U.S.-supported peace process in Belfast, though massive security operations served as evidence of Northern Ireland’s still-shaky peace.

“It has been 15 years since the Good Friday Agreement; since clenched fists gave way to outstretched hands; since the people of this island voted in overwhelming numbers to see past the scars of violence and mistrust, and choose to wage peace,” the president said, promising U.S. support as long as North Ireland continues to pursue peace.

“We will always be a wind at your back. And like I said when I visited two years ago, I am convinced that this little island, that inspires the biggest things — its best days are yet ahead.”

Cameron, the host of this week’s conference, named the problem of tax avoidance by large corporations as a central issue for G8 leaders to resolve at this year’s summit. The British prime minister hopes to secure agreements among nations on sharing tax information, with the goal of ensuring global companies aren’t able to dodge tax bills.