Maryland - The United States and other members of the Group of
Eight industrial nations agree that Europe's financial crisis must be
addressed with a mix of growth and austerity measures, President Barack
Obama said Saturday as leaders gathered for a discussion that also will
cover world concerns about ups and downs in oil prices.
Leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Canada,
Italy, Britain, Russia, and Japan are trying to figure out how to tame
Europe's debt crisis while also increasing the demand for goods and
spurring job growth.
They expressed hope that faltering Greece would remain
in the eurozone, saying all of the nations have an interest in the
success of efforts to strengthen the eurozone and help Europe's economy
The economic powers said in a statement released
Saturday at their summit at the wooded presidential retreat in Maryland
that the global economic recovery is showing signs of progress, but
"significant headwinds persist."
Earlier, Obama said the group was committed to making
sure that growth and stability and fiscal consolidation are part of an
overall package to help struggling European countries.
Obama was referring to the debt crises in Greece and
Spain, primarily, although he was not specific in brief remarks to
Obama's argument for additional stimulus measures
alongside belt-tightening is primarily aimed at Germany, the strongest
member of the union of European countries that uses the common Euro
currency, although Obama did not say so. German Chancellor Angela Merkel
was seated a few places away from Obama at a small round table.
Leaders of the world's economic powers say Germany
should balance its push for European fiscal austerity with doses of
stimulus spending to avoid a financial calamity with global
In talks Saturday, the leaders were looking to build
consensus even though a decisive plan of action seemed out of reach for
"We'll also be talking about uncertainty in the energy
markets and how to resolve some of those issues," Obama said at the
start of discussions on the global economy.
Obama chose the secluded Camp David setting in part to
give leaders a chance for a freewheeling discussion out of sight of most
media and far from the raucous protests that have accompanied previous
meetings of the G-8.
The G-8 session sets the stage for a far more
consequential European summit in Brussels next week where the countries
that share the euro as their currency hope to come together on specific
steps to fight rising debt while spurring a recovery.
The Camp David gathering opened with a Friday evening
discussion focused on global trouble spots Iran and Syria. Obama said
the session also touched on North Korea's aggression and hopeful signs
of democratic change in Myanmar.
"We are unified on our approach to Iran," and hopeful
of progress ahead of a diplomatic meeting with Iran next week, Obama
Iran may have a peaceful nuclear energy program but
misuse of that program for a nuclear weapon is unacceptable, Obama said.
Ever-tighter economic sanctions cannot be loosened while the world
encourages Iran to rein in its program, Obama said.
"All of us are firmly committed to continuing with the
approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic
discussions," Obama said. "And our hope is that we can resolve this
issue in a peaceful fashion that respects Iran's sovereignty and its
rights in the international community, but also recognizes its
On Syria, Obama said the group supports a United
Nations cease-fire plan that has yet to be honored in full. He said a
statement to be issued at the close of the G-8 summit will reflect that
support for the plan brokered by envoy Kofi Annan, but also say that the
plan has not taken hold fast enough.
Most of the leaders are part of overlapping
international coalitions formed to address the Iranian nuclear problem
and the newer crisis in Syria, where an estimated 9,000 people have died
in more than a year of violence that arose from the pro-democracy Arab
Faced with implacable Russian opposition to significant
new United Nations punishments on the Syrian regime, U.S. officials are
trying to get consensus among other allies about ways to promote the
ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"We all believe that a peaceful resolution and political transition in Syria is preferable," Obama said Saturday.
A senior U.S. official said one goal of the closed-door
discussions at Camp David was to impress on Russian Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev that other nations that share Russia's usual role at the
forefront of international diplomacy are seeking ways to address the
Syria debacle without Russian help.
In what has been widely viewed as a snub, Russian
President Vladimir Putin is skipping the G-8 summit. He sent Medvedev in
Later Saturday the leaders were returning to foreign affairs topics with discussion of Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Obama established the tone for the G-8 on Friday after
meeting with just-elected French President Francois Hollande, when he
said the aim of the summit was to promote both fiscal consolidation and a
"strong growth agenda."
The two leaders, Obama said "agree that this is an
issue of extraordinary importance not only to the people of Europe but
also to the world economy."
Hollande, elected May 6 as France's first Socialist
president since 1995, advocates more spending to jolt the economy. His
predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy partnered with Merkel in leading the
eurozone to adopt a raft of austerity measures in response to the
continent's fiscal problems.
In a hint of the pressures facing the leaders, when
Obama greeted Merkel and asked her how she was doing, the German leader
"Well, you have a few things on your mind," Obama said.
A central economic topic, though hardly the only one
confronting Europe, is the fate of Greece. That country is facing the
most acute financial crisis of the eurozone and is set to hold elections
June 17 after a previous vote May 6 resulted in a political deadlock.
At issue is whether Greece abandons the euro to escape austerity
Hollande, after meeting with Obama at the White House,
said, "We share the same views, the fact that Greece must stay in the
eurozone and that all of us must do what we can to that effect."
For Obama, Europe's fate is critical to his own
political survival. An economic recession that spreads to the U.S. could
damage an already slow recovery and boost the argument by his
Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, that the United States economy needs
There is a get-acquainted aspect to the session as well.
The Camp David gathering, the largest collection of
foreign leaders ever at the presidential retreat, is the first G-8
meeting for Hollande, for Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and for
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.