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Crisis in Syria Dominates Day 1 of Russia’s Global Economy Summit

ST. PETERSBURG– The first day of the G20 summit, traditionally a platform for economic debate, was dominated Thursday by the crisis in Syria, with Russian President and summit host Vladimir Putin proposing that world leaders discuss over dinner the United States’ call for a military strike against the Syrian government, according to RIA Novosti.

Putin told the summit’s opening session at the Constantine Palace on the outskirts of St. Petersburg that it would be best if discussions about Syria took place during the evening meal Thursday so as not to distract from pre-planned agendas in the event’s other meetings.

The gathering of the Group of 20, a club that includes countries with two-thirds of the world’s population and over 90 percent of its economic output, was expected to tackle issues of financial regulation, shadow banking and tax avoidance, but it has become increasingly overshadowed by US President Barack Obama’s call for American military intervention in Syria.

Putin has led international opposition to such intervention. He has said that an attack on Syria without the backing of the United Nations Security Council would be an act of “aggression” and has accused the US Secretary of State John Kerry of deliberately lying about the situation inside Syria.

Obama appeared increasingly isolated Thursday as, after flying in to St. Petersburg, other world leaders openly expressed their opposition to a military intervention against Damascus.

The two most senior European Union officials, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission Jose Barroso, called for a “political” solution to the Syrian crisis during a joint press conference in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

“The situation remains a stain on the world’s conscience,” Barroso said. “The European Union believes that efforts should be evolved towards a political solution to the conflict.”

China also spoke out against unilateral US military action in Syria, warning that such action could lead to severe economic problems.

"Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price – it will cause a hike in the oil price," Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told a briefing, Reuters reported.

Even the Pope appeared to enter the debate with a letter to the G20 leaders calling on them to “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution” in Syria, according to a copy of the letter posted on the Vatican’s website. 

Moscow has repeatedly insisted that the United Nations is the only body that can legitimate military action in Syria, a position that Peskov reiterated Thursday.

 “In international relations, the only organ that can make a legitimate decision about the use of force is the United Nations Security Council – not the Russian parliament, not the US Congress,” Peskov said.

The G20’s focus on Syria was reflected in last-minute additions to the guest list. Unusually for the G20, some foreign ministers will be in attendance.

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Lavrov and Kerry discuss situation in Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the situation in Syria. Russia continues to firmly adhere to the agreements reached at the G8 summit in Loch Earn in June, said Lavrov,according to Voice of Russia, Interfax.

"This means that the expert conclusions on all cases of possible use of chemical weapons in Syria should be submitted to the UN Security Council, which will make decisions. We oppose the use of force by-passing this mechanism," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a report posted on its official website on Thursday.

The ministry specified that the phone conversation was on Kerry's initiative and addressed the situation with Syria.

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Russia says combat operations against sovereign state without UN sanction is aggression

MOSCOW- Combat operations against a sovereign state launched without a United Nations Security Council sanction will be considered as an act of aggression, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told journalists on Thursday,according to ITAR TASS.

 “I would like to cite our president who said that the sole body authorized to take a decision to use force against a sovereign state is the United Nations Security Council,” he said. “Vladimir Putin put it absolutely straight that any other actions against a sovereign state sanctioned by any parliament or a congress should and will be considered as aggression.”

He said that meeting with US and "Israeli "defense attaches he had warned them against further fanning tensions in the Mediterranean Sea. “On behalf of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, I asked them to call on the US and "Israeli " officials not to drive the situation to extremity,” Antonov noted. “Our task is to preserve peace and stability in this region, to do our best not to let the situation become critical.”

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Merkel: Germany not to take part in possible military actions against Syria

STRELNA, St Petersburg - Germany does not intend to take part in possible military actions against Syria, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Thursday,according to ITAR TASS.

 “Germany will only take part in providing "humanitarian assistance" to the crisis  in Syria,” Merkel said.

 “This war should be put an end,” the German chancellor said, adding that the crisis could be settled by only political means.

In addition, Merkel warned against high expectations that the G20 summit will find a solution to the crisis in Syria. “This possibility can be discussed and the summit gives us the chance. Who talks tries to reach mutual understanding,” Merkel said.

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US strike on Syria to be another nail in coffin of international law - Peskov

American military intervention in Syria will lead to total destabilization of government and what most important will be another nail in the coffin of international law, said Russian President's spokesman Dmitry Peskov on the sidelines of G20 in St. Petersburg,according to Voice of Russia.

Kremlin would appreciate US Congress to take in account every single argument before making a final decision on Syria, said Peskov. He has no doubt that Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama will express their opinion on Syria during the G20 summit.

"Putin will take advantage of the excellent opportunity to present his - and Russia’s - opinion on the situation in Syria. Especially considering the fact that the situation in the camp of supporters of the strike on Syria is controversial now. We cannot say that the idea of a military operation was supported by many countries," he said.

According to him, the idea of a military operation has not found broad support even among the permanent allies of the United States, because the international community has already had a bitter experience of such operations.

"They never led to stability and prosperity, only brought suffering to people. And today we all have to deal with unfortunate consequences of those operations in the form of continuing instability in the countries, which were subjected to them," the Press Secretary of the President said.

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