Syria peace conference must be held as soon as possible, says G8

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 4:48am

G8 leaders yesterday threw their weight behind calls for a peace conference on Syria to be held in Geneva "as soon as possible" and agreed to measures to tackle tax evasion.

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".

"We remain committed to achieving a political solution to the crisis based on a vision for a united inclusive and democratic Syria," said the final communiqué seen by Reuters.

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 communiqué pointedly made no reference to him, in an apparent concession to Syria's ally Russia.

Aside from Syria, Cameron heralded a pledge to fight the "scourge" of tax evasion and promote corporate transparency.

"Countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes, and multinationals should report to tax authorities what tax they pay where," the G8 said.

It also called for greater transparency on corporate ownership, saying: "Companies should know who really owns them, and tax collectors and law enforcers should be able to obtain this information easily."

On the banks of Lough Erne, the world's leading industrialised nations also agreed to share more cross-border financial details.

After talks which at times pitted Russian President Vladimir Putin against his fellow G8 leaders, the final communiqué 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 to have taken place this month, but were delayed.

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 US$1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for refugees, including US$300 million from the US and €200 million (HK$2 billion) from Germany.

The leaders called on the regime and opposition to "commit to destroying and expelling from Syria all organisations and individuals affiliated to al-Qaeda".