Syria is the top priority as the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit opens on Monday in Northern Ireland. US President Barack Obama is leading efforts to convince Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Syria’s most loyal ally, to bring Bashar Al-Assad to the negotiating table.
Tensions are high between the Russian and American leaders after the Obama administration angered Moscow by authorizing the US military to support the Syrian rebels who have been involved in a bloody civil war.
Putin had harsh words for US policy in this matter while in talks with British Prime Minister, David Cameron before the summit began, dubbing the rebels as “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, NBC news reports.
In the meantime, Obama gave an opening speech at the G-8 about supporting Catholic-Protestant reconciliation at the Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. The US brokered a peace accord on Good Friday.
Obama pointed out that the peace deal reached in the early Spring in Northern Ireland is a an example for those struggling to end violence all over 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, And they’re wondering perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace we can too. So you’re their blueprint to follow.”
The location of the Summit is a reminder of past violence in the country as it is being held just minutes away from the town of Enniskillen. In 1987 rebels from the Irish Republican Army bombed the annual memorial ceremony for British war veterans killing 11 and injuring 63.
Members of the G-8 Summit are Russia, Japan, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, France, and the United States.