G8 leaders from left, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy attend a working session during the G-8 summit at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Jewel Samad, Pool)
ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland (AP) -- President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other G-8 leaders took a united stance Tuesday on seeking a negotiated Syrian peace settlement to forge a "united, inclusive and democratic" government -- but couldn't agree on whether this means President Bashar Assad must go.
The declaration at the end of the two-day Group of Eight summit sought to narrow the diplomatic chasm between Assad's key backer, Russia, and Western leaders on starting peace talks in Geneva to end a two-year civil war that has claimed an estimated 93,000 lives.
The Syrian declaration said the country needs a new coalition government with "a top leadership that inspires public confidence." It made no reference the possibility of sending U.S., British or French weapons to rebels, an option being kept open by all three G-8 members. Russia refused to back any declaration that made Assad's ouster an explicit goal, arguing that it would be impossible to start peace talks with a predetermined outcome.
From Northern Ireland President Obama flew to Berlin, Germany. The President has a 24-hour visit there which culminates with a speech Wednesday at Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate. The president's visit comes nearly 50 years to the day after John F. Kennedy's famous Cold War address in Berlin.