Putin faces isolation over Syria as G8 ratchets up pressure

Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:46pm EDT
 

By Kate Holton and Jeff Mason

ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin faced further isolation on the second day of a G8 summit on Tuesday as world leaders lined up to pressure him into toning down his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Following an icy encounter between the Kremlin chief and U.S. President Barack Obama late on Monday, the G8 leaders will seek to find resolution to a war that has prompted powers across the Middle East to square off on sectarian lines.

The sticking point again will be Putin, who faced a barrage of criticism from Western leaders for supporting Assad and the Syrian's president's attempt to crush a 2-year-old uprising in which at least 93,000 people have been killed.

"It's a clarifying moment to see what kind of commitments the Russians are willing to make in a leading world forum," a British official said before the leaders met for dinner at a remote, heavily guarded golf course outside of Enniskillen.

An official close to one of the delegations said the talks over dinner had gone better than expected and that a joint communiqué with Russia on Syria now seemed more likely. However, the official declined to speculate on what Russia might be willing to sign up for.

But if consensus could not be reached, it was possible a final statement at the end of the two-day summit might be released without Russia's input and in the name of the G7 rather than the G8.

Divisions over Syria dominated the atmosphere as global leaders met in Northern Ireland, a place once rocked by decades of violence but which Britain now wants to showcase as a model of conflict resolution.

Putin and Obama appeared tense as they addressed reporters late on Monday after about two hours of talks, with Putin mostly staring at the floor as he spoke about Syria and Obama only glancing occasionally at the Russian leader.   Continued...

 
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque