Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Putin warns on arms for rebels

Those around the table included US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian president Vladimir Putin

Weapons sent to Syrian rebels may end up in the hands of the sort of extremists who killed Drummer Lee Rigby, Vladimir Putin warned as the G8 summit ended with a degree of international accord over the crisis.

The Russian president said many elements of the forces opposed to president Bashar Assad's regime were "exactly the same" as those behind the brutal murder of the soldier on the streets of London.

He drew the stark parallel at the close of the two-day summit which saw the leaders of the world's most powerful nations paper over their differences on Syria to agree a joint position.

In a joint statement that Prime Minister David Cameron said was "turning up the pace" towards ending the bloody conflict, the eight nations said a planned peace conference should be held "as soon as possible".

They said they were "committed to achieving a political solution to the crisis based on a vision for a united, inclusive and democratic Syria".

After resistance from Russia, the statement made no reference to the future of Assad, saying only that a transitional government must be formed "by mutual consent" between the different sides of Syrian society.

But it did make clear that Syria's military and security forces will be allowed to remain intact following a transition of power - seen as a tacit encouragement to Assad's senior officers to launch a coup.

Mr Cameron said many former supporters of Assad knew "in their hearts" that he could not be the future.

Tensions over Syria dominated the G8 gathering, which took place in the wake of an announcement by US president Barack Obama that the US was ready to arm the rebels despite Moscow's opposition.

Mr Cameron said Assad had "blood on his hands" and insisted it was "unthinkable" the dictator could play any part in the nation's future.

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