Obama and Putin to meet face-to-face

President Barak Obama exits Air Force One with his family.
President Barak Obama exits Air Force One with his family.

ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland — US President Barack Obama faces what could be a frosty G8 meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday after the Russian leader clashed with the West over plans to arm Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

At their first private face-to-face meeting in a year, Obama will try to convince Putin to bring Assad to the negotiating table but the Russian leader has shown little sign of compromise.

On the summit’s eve, Putin described Assad’s foes as cannibals who ate their enemies intestines in front of media cameras.

“Are these the people you want to support? Is it them who you want to supply with weapons?” Putin said in London on his way to the G8.

British Prime Minister Cameron, who chairs the summit, acknowledged that there was “a big difference” between the positions of Russia and the West on Syria but he stressed there was also common ground between the world’s richest powers.

Other leaders were less diplomatic: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that Putin, as Assad’s only big-power ally at the G8 table, was supporting thugs.

“We are not, unless there is a big shift in position on his part, going to get a common position with him at the G8.”

Obama and Putin are due to meet at about 6:30 pm local time at the Lough Erne golf resort about 10 kilometres outside the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen.

But Cameron could face some awkward questions at the G8 table after a Guardian newspaper report that Britain spied on officials taking part in two Group of 20 meetings in 2009.

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and Italy — representing just over half of the $71.7 trillion global economy — will also discuss the global economy.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders will likely discuss the role of central banks and monetary policy.

They are likely to say they are not content with progress so far in fixing their economies in the wake of the global financial crisis, according to a draft communiqu√ seen by Reuters.

Japan’s Abe will use the opportunity to explain his cocktail of fiscal and monetary stimulus known as “Abenomics” to the leaders as investors try to absorb the implications of a signal by the US Federal Reserve that it may start to slow its money-printing. (Reuters)

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