RIA NOVOSTI (Russia), REUTERS, RUSSIA TODAY, AFP, BBC

Worldcrunch

ST. PETERSBURG — The leaders of the world's 20 most powerful economies arrived Thursday in Russia for the annual G20 summit.

The two-day meeting was initially supposed to focus on the economic slowdown in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as well as on the fight against global tax evasion. But after the August 21 chemical attack in Syria, which the West insists was carried out by Bashar al-Assad's forces, it is expected that this will be a major topic of discussion.

Still Russia's presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that there were currently no plans on the formal G20 agenda for a discussion on Syria, adding that "there will, nonetheless, be some kind of conversations."

A bilateral meeting between presidents Putin and Obama, due to take place before the opening of the summit, was cancelled in early August by the American president after Russia decided to grant asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The United Nations special envoy for Syria will attend the summit in a bid to push for the holding of a peace conference on Syria, RIA Novosti reports.

On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry submitted a 100-page report to the UN showing evidence that it was the opponents of Bashar al-Assad who used chemical weapons near Aleppo on March 19, and pointing to similar attacks against Syrian soldiers on August 22, 24 and 25, Russia Today reports.

Meanwhile, AFP says that Barack Obama will defend his position on a military action against Assad and will push for other countries to back his stance. According to Russia Today, the American president has postponed his meeting with Russian human rights activists. It also says that Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with French president François Hollande but not with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

According to Reuters, China defended the Russian position against such an intervention, warning that striking Syria would hurt the world economy and that oil prices would soar.

On the economy, Reuters also reports that during their bilateral meeting, Russia and China expressed their concern about the future U.S. Federal Reserve tapering which they say could have a strong impact on the global economy. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also said he would push Obama for a less severe end of the monetary stimulus program.

China and Russia also signed several agreements after their trade meeting, namely on the purchase-sale of gas between Russian company Novatek and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), according to Russia Today.

The summit should also see the leaders signing an agreement to fight against multinational companies skirting national tax laws, the BBC reports.

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