The Syrian war is expected to top the agenda at this week Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, with U.S. President Obama and Russian President Putin meeting one-on-one Monday to discuss the conflict that has killed some 92,000 people.
Shortly after the United States announced that it will start arming Syrian rebels, Syria’s ally Russia fired back by saying such a move would support those “who kill their enemies and eat their organs.”
The G8 Summit features eight of the world’s most powerful countries, and they are divided on the issue of the Syrian war.
In one corner, the United States, the United Kingdom and France insist rebels need more help in ousting the oppressive regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In the other corner, Russia claims its supply of weapons to the Syrian regime isn’t nearly as bad as sending arms to the rebels.
The Obama administration announced last week it intends to start arming the rebels because Syria crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons, including sarin gas, against the opposition.
Washington officials reportedly told CNN that the plan includes providing small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons to the rebels.
In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked, “I believe you will not deny that one should hardly back those who kill their enemies and eat their organs. … Do you want to support these people? Do you want to supply arms to these people?”
Putin was referring to a widely circulated internet video of a rebel fighter eating the heart of a dead regime soldier. The act shown in the video was widely condemned by the Syrian opposition.
Russia and Syria have been long-time allies dating back to the Cold War era, and the Syrian government has been a longtime purchaser of Russian weapons.
The rebels have suffered a series of devastating losses in recent weeks, including their stronghold of Qusayr, which was captured by regime troops supported by Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon.
The Syrian rebels have been pleading for anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, saying they are outgunned by al-Assad’s military. Image/AFP