Here’s a look at key developments around the world Thursday amid heightened tensions over potential military action in Syria:
Leaders at the forefront of the geopolitical standoff over Syria’s civil war gathered in St. Petersburg, Russia, and started the two-day meeting of the Group of 20 leading world economies, with the threat of missiles over the Mediterranean eclipsing economic issues that usually dominate the annual summit.
Differences over Syria have heightened tensions between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin since the civil war in Syria started.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the U.S. should wait for the U.N. inspectors’ report on their investigation into chemical attack before intervening militarily, adding that Washington’s evidence of Syrian regime involvement isn’t strong enough.
He insisted the U.N. Security Council is the only body that can authorize use of force. The Kremlin’s chief of staff said Russia has been sending warships to the Mediterranean Sea for possible evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria.
Prime Minister David Cameron said British scientists have found new evidence that poison gas was used last month outside the Syrian capital. Cameron told BBC television the evidence being examined at England’s Porton Down Laboratory “further shows the use of chemical weapons in that Damascus suburb.”
Syrian government troops battled al-Qaida-linked rebels for a second day over the regime-held Christian village of Maaloula in western Syria. Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, said the fighters included members of the al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power lashed out at Russia at the United Nations, accusing Moscow of holding the Security Council “hostage” by blocking action against Syria. In St. Petersburg, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the situation in Syria has “no military solution. There is only a political solution which can bring peace and end this bloodshed right now.”
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy urged U.N. investigators to release information as soon as possible about a chemical weapons attack in Syria so the international community can decide how to respond. Rompuy said in St. Petersburg that the attack “was a blatant violation of international law and a crime against humanity.” He said it is too early for a military response.
Pope Francis urged world leaders to abandon the “futile pursuit” of a military solution in Syria and work for dialogue and negotiation to end the conflict. In a letter to Putin, the pope lamented that “one-sided interests” had prevailed in Syria. He said those interests allowed the “senseless massacre” of innocent people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she doubts world leaders can agree on what to do about Syria’s civil war despite frenzied diplomatic efforts because of disagreement over who is to blame for the gas attack. She said: “I do not believe yet that we will reach a joint position.”