G8 leaders leave Northern Ireland still divided over Syrian conflict

ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland – Stephen Harper is expected to chat with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday as the Group of Eight summit comes to a close, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Harper and Obama are not scheduled to have an official sit-down meeting, but rather to walk and talk.

The encounter comes the morning after a private dinner was held at the lakeside Lough Erne resort in Northern Ireland for the leaders of eight wealthy countries.

Reports in the British press say the other G8 leaders pressured Russian President Vladimir Putin at the dinner to agree to a joint statement condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime for attacking rebels with chemical weapons.

Russia has refused to acknowledge that chemical weapons have been used. The United States, meanwhile, claims to have proof the Assad regime attacked its foes with chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin.

According to a tweet by British Prime Minister David Cameron, the talks took place over a meal that included Kilkeel crab, prawn and avocado salad; roast fillet and braised shin of Kettyle beef with violet artichokes; Comber new potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

The leaders finished their meal with apple crumble with Bushmils whisky custard and a selection of cheeses from the British Isles.

The G8 wraps up Tuesday afternoon, and the leaders are expected to return to their home countries with a promise to take action to combat tax evasion. They are scheduled to hold talks on tax issues before lunch, which will include discussion of a British proposal that would force companies to reveal who actually owns them and create a registry of corporate ownership.

Earlier Tuesday, the leaders met to discuss counterterrorism measures in Africa’s Sahel region, a vast swath of the continent that runs from Senegal eastward to Sudan. Cameron has also proposed a joint statement by the G8 that they will not pay ransoms to terrorist kidnappers.