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The Russian Foreign Ministry has been working for months to convince both sides of the conflict – the Syrian government led by President Bashar Al Assad and the factions comprising the Free Syrian Army – to convene for a peace summit in Switzerland.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov is expected to meet with UN and US representatives in Geneva on June 25 to work out the specifics of the summit.
The G8’s final communique on Syria also seems to have bowed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to back any declaration that made Assad’s removal from power an explicit goal.
The declaration at the end of the two-day summit in Northern Ireland did not include a call for Assad to resign, which rebels and Western nations have often demanded.
Instead, they pledged “to work together to stop the bloodshed and loss of life in Syria and to support the Syrian people to establish peace and stability through political means.”
They urged both the Syrian government and opposition forces to engage “seriously and constructively” at the proposed Geneva conference likely to be held in July.
“Both sides at the conference must engage seriously and constructively,” they said, adding that “We will engage actively with the parties in order to achieve successful outcome.”
The G8 leaders also said that they are deeply concerned by the growing threat from terrorism and extremism in Syria and the growing sectarian nature of the conflict.
“We are gravely concerned at the appalling human tragedy that the UN estimates has cost the lives of over 93,000 people and led to 4.2 million internally displaced persons and 1.6 million refugees,” the statement read.
“We acknowledge the vital humanitarian role played by neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees, above all Lebanon and Jordan, in dealing with the significant economic and security pressures they are facing as a result of the conflict and refugee influx,” it continued.
In the first reaction to the G8 declaration on Syria, rebel groups criticized world leaders saying they had given more time to Assad to consolidate his forces.