U.S. President Barack Obama is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G8 summit, to discuss Washington's decision to provide weapons to the rebels in their fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr. Putin has staunchly opposed the U.S. intervention in the two-year Syrian conflict. It has been a year since the Russian and American leaders have met face to face, but they talked Monday as the two-day G8 summit opened at a golf resort in Northern Ireland.
Heads of state at the G8 discussed world economic issues, but the conference is likely to be dominated by talks on the U.S. decision to arm Syrian rebels.
Earlier, Mr. Obama spoke in Belfast to a young audience, calling peace in Northern Ireland a "blueprint" for those living in conflict zones around the world.
Mr. Obama said, "The terms of peace may be negotiated by leaders, but the fate of peace is up to you."
The summit at the Lough Erne resort is being hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron, and also includes the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan.
The G8 countries account for 50 percent of the world's economic output. But to varying degrees, they have struggled to emerge from the depths of the global recession of 2008 and 2009.
White House officials said last week that President Obama intends to brief the other seven leaders at the summit about the U.S. plan to arm the Syrian rebels. The U.S. has declared it has evidence that Mr. Assad's forces have used chemical weapons.
((OPT SOUNDBITES IN ENGLISH:
1.) U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama --
"..And standing here with all of you today, I have never felt more optimistic, let me tell you. Because time and again, I have seen young people like all of you choosing to work together, choosing to lift each other up, choosing to leave behind the conflicts and prejudices of the past and create a bright future for us all."
2.) U.S. President Barack Obama --
"Beyond these shores - right now, in scattered corners of the world, there are people living in the grip of conflict, ethnic conflict, religious conflict, tribal conflicts - and they know something better is out there. And they are groping to find a way to discover how to move beyond the heavy hand of history. Put aside the violence. They are studying what you're doing, and wondering, perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace we can too. So you are their blueprint to follow. You are their proof of what is possible. Because hope is contagious. They are watching to see what you do next."