Published time: June 18, 2013 15:12
Edited time: June 18, 2013 16:56
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaks during a media conference at the conclusion of the G8 summit at the Lough Erne resort near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland on June 18, 2013.(AFP Photo / Matt Dunham)
There is no proof that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during the G8 summit. Some of the G8 countries share this view, he added.
“We do not have any facts of the use of such weapons by the Syrian government. I assure you, that by no means all the G8 members believe that they were used,” Putin said.
The Russian President stressed he “never felt isolated” at the summit despite the difference in views, and said the G8 leaders have been seeking a common solution to the Syrian conflict.
Supplying arms to the rebels based on unconfirmed reports that chemical weapons were used by the Assad government would further destabilize Syria, Putin warned.
Putin urged Western nations not to be hasty in arming the Syrian opposition, saying that such weapons could fall into the wrong hands, or be uncontrollable.
“I call on all our partners to think twice before making such steps. It is a very dangerous stuff,” the Russian president said, pointing to the “horrible” and “tragic” Woolwich murder.
There are “loads of such criminals fighting for the [Syrian] opposition, who could commit a brutal murder like this,” he stressed.
However, Putin did not rule out Russia signing new arms contracts with the Syrian government. The Russian president stressed that all such contracts comport with international law: “We are supplying arms under legal contracts to the legitimate government. It is the government of the President Assad. And if we are going to make such contracts, then we will deliver.”
Russia and the United States will spearhead the development of a peace plan for Syria, Putin said.
The G8 countries have agreed that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the US Secretary of State John Kerry will take on “main role and the main burden of responsibility” for working out the principles of the solution to the crisis, he added.
Tuesday’s communique by the G8 nations calling for an end to the fighting in Syria represents a “much better outcome” than was expected, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
Harper also apparently changed his view on Russia’s role in Syrian conflict talks, saying there has been “a very significant move on the part of Mr. Putin and the Russians.”