The second and final day of the G8 summit saw Russian President Vladimir Putin disagree with the other heads of state over potential solutions to the increasingly desperate situation in Syria.
The leaders seemed united for the world’s press but behind the scenes Putin, whose discomfort was plain for all to see, found himself increasingly isolated as the other leaders closed ranks and tried to get him to tone down his support for Bashar al-Assad.
However, it seems that Putin has resisted these attempts, with Moscow announcing that it has blocked any details about Assad’s fate from appearing in the final G8 summit communique.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, said: “This would be not just unacceptable for the Russian side, but we are convinced that it would be utterly wrong, harmful and would completely upset the political balance.”
Russia has always believed it is better to support Bashar al-Assad rather than taking the risk of backing the opposition and possibly sowing a more permanent instability. It has already supplied al-Assad with weapons and given him diplomatic cover, with Putin urging the Western countries to think “three or four times” before arming the Syrian rebels.
The differences between Putin and the other leaders mean a Geneva peace conference on Syria is now unlikely before August. Speaking to Reuters, one source from the meeting of the G8 said, “You’re close to a seven to one position on Syria and clearly Putin doesn’t hold back with his views.”
The final communiqué
The final communiqué from the G8 mentioned the leaders’ determination to work together to stop the bloodshed in Syria and to find a political solution. It also condemned the use of chemical weapons and urged for the UN investigation team to be allowed to enter the country.
It also said the leaders want to hold the proposed Geneva conference “as soon as possible” but did not outline a date or make any reference to Syrian leader Assad stepping down.
The G8 leaders pledged close to $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid to the crisis.