Summit static: The G-8 meets but accomplishes little on Syria

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The G-8 summit that ended Tuesday was a useful meeting, but one that produced no new agreement on how to deal with the bloody war in Syria.

The two-day session in Northern Ireland was a tribute to the level of peace and tranquility that have prevailed there since the 1998 peace accord between Catholics and Protestants.

A bizarre aspect of the G-8 is that it includes France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, but not China, the world's second-largest economy, or Brazil or India. Important subjects besides Syria discussed were trade, the recession and tax evasion.

The war in Syria occupied a lot of the attention, but little or no progress was made in narrowing the gap between Russia and France, the United Kingdom and the United States on how to move forward. Nearly two hours of talks Monday between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin achieved little, except hazy agreement that something needed to be done and weak support for a peace conference that Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been trying to organize.

Mr. Obama hurt that effort last week. After Syrian rebels threatened not to go to Geneva unless they were provided more arms, he agreed to send them weapons, caving in to their blackmail and infuriating the Russians, who arm Syria's government.

The leaders' talks on trade were useful, given their role in the effort to pull participating countries out of the global recession. Tax evasion by corporations and individuals (many from the United States), who move their holdings overseas to avoid paying at home, was also discussed broadly.

Meetings of senior leaders are useful, but could be made better by including the top officials of the world's largest economies, starting with China, without a heavy tilt toward the Europeans. The global conferences could also be improved by concentrating on economic issues and leaving political issues such as Syria off the agenda.

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