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(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

G8 calls for urgent peace talks and a transitional government in Syria

The G8 nations pledged almost €1.1 billion in humanitarian aid for refugees inside and outside Syria.

G8 LEADERS THREW their weight behind calls for a peace conference on Syria to be held in Geneva “as soon as possible”, after a summit dominated by the country’s civil war.

At the end of two days of talks in Northern Ireland, the leaders also called for agreement on a transitional government in Syria “with full executive powers, formed by mutual consent”.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, the summit host, said it was “unthinkable” that President Bashar al-Assad could play a role in a transitional administration, but the G8 communique pointedly made no reference to him, in an apparent concession to Syria’s ally Russia.

After talks which at times pitted Russian President Vladimir Putin against his fellow G8 leaders, the final communique said the Syrian military and security services “must be preserved and restored” in a future set-up.

The leaders did not suggest a date for the proposed Syria talks, which were supposed to take place this month but have already been delayed.

Gathered on the picturesque banks of Lough Erne, they agreed to stamp out the payment of ransoms for hostages kidnapped by “terrorists”, and called on companies to follow their lead in refusing to pay for the release of their employees.

90,000 killed

The summit was dominated by the conflict in Syria, which has cost more than 90,000 lives since it broke out in March 2011.

The G8 nations pledged almost €1.1 billion in humanitarian aid for refugees inside and outside Syria, including $300 million from the United States and €200 million from Germany.

After Washington said it would arm the Syrian rebels and the EU mulled the issue, the G8 said it was deeply concerned at the growing extremism and “terrorism” in Syria.

The world leaders called on the regime and the opposition to “commit to destroying and expelling from Syria all organisations and individuals affiliated to Al-Qaeda, and any other non-state actors linked to terrorism”.

Putin’s sharp differences with US President Barack Obama over Syria were laid bare in icy face-to-face talks on Monday.

In his end-of-summit press conference, Putin said defiantly that Russia could not rule out sending fresh shipments of weapons to the Syrian regime.

The Russian president also accused the United States of “destabilising” the situation in Syria with its allegations that the regime has used nerve gas on a limited scale.

The G8 brings together Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

- © AFP, 2013

G8 leaders ‘close’ to agreement on Syria amid calls for ‘concrete’ solution>

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