Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrialized countries are focusing on Europe’s economic turmoil Saturday as they meet for the second day of their annual economic summit.
Hosting the summit at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama is pressing his fellow G8 leaders from Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia to consider a growth agenda as they discuss how to tackle the mounting debt that has threatened the stability of the eurozone.
Speaking Saturday morning at the start of the first working session, President Obama said the group would seek ways to balance growth with cuts.
“All of us are absolutely committed to making sure that both growth and stability, and fiscal consolidation, are part of [an] overall package that all of us have to pursue in order to achieve the kind of prosperity for our citizens that we’re looking for,” Obama said.
The president said the summit participants would also spend Saturday talking about uncertainty in the energy markets and developments in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan.
He said Friday’s dinner talks gave the officials a chance to discuss core issues affecting their nations’ common security.
On concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, Obama said the G8 is firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions.
“I want to say that we are unified when it comes to our approach with Iran,” the president stressed. “I think all of us agree that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear power, but that its continuing violations of international rules and norms and its inability thus far to convince the world community that it’s not pursuing the weaponization of nuclear power is something of grave concern to all of us.”
Regarding the ongoing violence in Syria, he said the eight world powers support the peace plan brokered by international envoy and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, but want to see the situation improve more quickly.
“We all believe that a peaceful resolution and political transition in Syria is preferable. We are all deeply concerned about the violence that’s taking place there and the loss of life. We are supportive of the Annan plan, but we agreed, and I expect this will be reflected in our communique, that the Annan plan has to be fully implemented and that a political process has to move forward in a more timely fashion to resolve that issue.”
The leaders also discussed North Korea, with Obama saying they all agree the North Koreans are violating their international obligations and that they will not be able to rejoin the international community if they continue with the “provocative actions” he said they have shown over the last several months.
Other topics of discussion included Burma’s political transformation and the issue of women’s empowerment.
President Obama described the conversation as “fruitful,” “frank” and “useful” and said it gives him great optimism about the G8’s ability to meet these challenges.
The G8 leaders are expected to focus their economic discussions on debt-ridden Greece, which could abandon the euro to escape austerity measures.
At a Friday news conference, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it is important for Greece and other eurozone members to respect commitments.
“I would like to reaffirm very clearly that we want Greece to stay in the euro area
The Camp David summit is part of four days of diplomacy for President Obama who departs, late Saturday, to a NATO summit in Chicago. NATO officials will focus on the war in Afghanistan.