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Syria splits G8 into “seven plus one”

June 19, 2013, 10:53 UTC+3

Reporters called the tonality of Putin and Obama's meeting “icy”

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As it was expected Syria became the main cause of differences between Russia and the other participants in the G8 summit that ended on Tuesday in Lough Erne. The West was unwilling to give up unilateral support for the Syrian opposition, as Moscow calls for.

Following the results of the first this year meeting of Russian and US presidents, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, the sides fixed differences in approaches to the Syrian problem, while reporters called the tonality of the meeting “icy”, the Vedomosti newspaper stressed.

Nothing was said about the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the final wording of the final communique, although Western diplomats lobbied for putting this item into the communique, the newspaper marks. Putting into the communiqu· the item about the need for Assad’s departure would upset the balance of forces in Syria, while predetermining some outcome of the conflict would mean embarking on a destructive road, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stressed. The communique said nothing about the ban on supplies of arms to warring parties, the newspaper marks.

The sides also supported the calling of a second conference in Geneva, on which Russia insists, although the exact date was not given. According to Ryabkov, an agreement was reached on the main issue, the lineup of the participants, and Syria will be represented both by the opposition and the government.

British Prime Minister David Cameron who presided over the summit, assessed the approved statement as very strong and was convincing reporters that there was no confrontation in the spirit of “seven plus one” at the summit. According to him, all participants managed to overcome fundamental differences.

Having approved the final communique, the leaders once again spoke at news conferences about different approaches. Cameron said he could not imagine Assad governing a united and stable Syria. According to Ryabkov, the US is still against the participation of Iran in a peace conference.

“Although differences on the lineup of the participants in the conference and on the future of Assad have not been removed, it is important that the sides did not take the road of confrontations, but have maintained a dialogue,” the Vedomosti cites the deputy director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the Higher School of Economics, Dmitry Suslov.

“Russia did not make concessions, while the West demonstrated that it was not ready for independent resolute moves - the situation in Syria will not change,” the chairman of the presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, Fedor Lukyanov, says.

Two forecasted events took place at the G8 summit that ended in Northern Ireland yesterday - an agreement was reached to set up a Transatlantic free trade zone and a scandal connected with Syria broke out, the Novye Izvestia believes. The first event offers prospects of major economic dividends to the US and the EU, while the second one - problems with Russia and a major war in the Middle East.

It has become clear after the summit that G8 failed to agree on the format of talks between the Syrian opposition and Bashar al-Assad, the newspaper says. Russia, which insists on a peaceful resolution of the conflict, has found itself in the minority. The other members of G8 did not see fit to abandon unilateral support for the Syrian opposition.

The RBK Daily cites the statement of Vladimir Putin that Russia has allies on Syria among the G8 countries. As the president said at the final news conference, not all G8 leaders believe that Assad had used chemical weapons. “Somebody may have wanted this very much, it seems,” he did not rule out. “The discussion was general, there were disputes, but Russia was never alone to support Syria. There are always doubting and willing to sort things out parties. And everybody wanted to find efficient approaches to the settlement of the problem,” he said.

The G8 summit faced the prospect of leading into a scandal, the newspaper writes. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said ahead of the summit that a dialogue of Russia and other G8 leaders on Syria proceeds in the format of “seven plus one”. “Some may regret what they have said,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov did not rule out in a conversation with reporters. “I think that after the summit our Canadian partners will be less willing to speak this way,” he added.

The Kommersant writes that the recent G8 summit seems to have brought Russia’s relations with its leading Western partners fifteen years back. In the 1990s these relations were determined by the rather forgotten nowadays formula “seven plus one” which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper once again put into practice at this G8 summit.

The summit marked the start of an “Ice Age” in personal relations of the Russian and US leaders, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily believes. However, sharp differences on Syria not just put Moscow and Washington “to the opposite sides of the ring”. Slightly more than ten years ago, when the US was getting ready to intrude into Syria, Russia was opposing these plans jointly with France and Germany. Now, Russia is practically isolated among the G8 states on the Syrian issue.

The dilemma facing the US president is among those one wouldn’t envy, the newspaper writes. An almost finished off enemy seems to shortly disappear from the “shooting area”. If this happens, the American elite will declare exactly him, Obama, responsible for a grandiose foreign policy failure.

But how to prevent “saving private Assad”? It would be most logical to finish the enemy off using others - actively help the Syrian opposition with arms. However, apart from “the right” Syrian oppositionists many other persons who don’t like America itself are fighting against Assad. But the pressure from American elite has taken its toll. Obama’s team has decided that the danger of “letting Assad go” is more imminent than the risk of involuntarily helping al-Qaeda.

Support for such an American course is absolutely unthinkable for Putin. Of course, Moscow is also not exactly mad about prospects for the strengthening of Iran. But the regime of al-Assad as it is never did anything bad to Russia and the former Soviet Union. On the contrary, the Damascus authorities were also seen as the most reliable ally of Moscow in the region.

Does it make any sense for Russia to keep investing its political capital in the regime which will most likely collapse in the long run? - the newspaper asks the question, marking that the Syrian issue is a very big dilemma not only for Obama but for Putin as well.

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