News Column

G20 Leaders Remain Divided on Syria

Sept. 6, 2013

The Group of 20 will not reach an agreement on Syria, since Russian President Vladimir Putin is "miles away" from the truth over the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday.

"The Russian position that, as Putin has said, if it is proved it is Assad he will take a different view but he is fairly clear that it is the opposition, is miles away from what I think the truth is and miles away from what lots of us believe," Cameron said after holding talks with the Russian president.

As the second and final day of the summit got underway in St Petersburg, the leaders of the world's leading economies officially turned to the need to create jobs to bolster economic growth.

But the debate about the response to chemical weapons use in Syria continued to overshadow the official agenda.

"This G20 was never going to reach conclusions on Syria," Cameron said. "The divisions are too great."

Plans by US President Barack Obama for a military strike against Syria and Putin's strong opposition had also dominated the summit's first day, despite the group's primary focus of the world economy.

US Deputy Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters however that the conflict can ultimately be solved only through political means and that Syria's ally Russia must take part in any peace talks in Geneva.

This year's gathering is the first not to be dominated by urgent financial matters since the G20 took on renewed importance at the height of the 2008 credit crisis.

Putin called on the leaders to secure new sources of economic growth and increase employment in their nations.

"Only through development can we avoid a relapse of the crisis and secure long-term sustainability of the economy," he told the second day of the summit at the Constantine Palace.

He pointed to overall levels of unemployment within the G20 that remain higher than before the start of the financial crisis in 2008 and particularly acute unemployment among youth.

Leaders have also focussed on tax evasion and profit shifting, while emerging markets have pressured developed countries on economic stimulus measures as the US Federal Reserve discusses winding down its bond-buying programme.

EU Comission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that developing nations were also prepared for financial reforms, while Europe no longer remained at the centre of attention, even though concerns remains.

The summit also provided a chance for leaders to discuss other important diplomatic issues on the sidelines. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat down together for their first meeting since Xi took office amid tensions over a territorial dispute between the Asian nations.

The G20 summit's dinner discussion about Syria late Thursday showed that leaders are split in two halves about the issue, President Putin's spokesman said.

"A range of states argued that it is necessary to take hurried action without heeding legitimate international institutions," the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters after the dinner had ended in the early morning hours.

A number of other states spoke out against a devaluation of international law and stressed that only the UN Security Council has the right to decide a use of force," Peskov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

He added that each group made out roughly half of the 20 participants.

The late night dinner at Peterhof palace ended after 1 am local time, more than three hours behind schedule.



Source: Copyright Deutsche Presse-Agentur ??? Engl 2013


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