Leaders of the G8 highly industrialized countries say promoting growth and jobs is their “imperative” as they seek to reinvigorate their economies in the face of the European debt crisis.
In a statement Saturday, the Group of Eight leaders also expressed their desire for Greece to remain in the eurozone and respect its commitments. The debt-ridden nation could abandon the euro to escape austerity measures, or be forced out if it fails to meet its obligations.
The G8 leaders focused on Europe’s economic turmoil Saturday as they met at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington for the second day of their annual summit.
In their formal statement, the participants said they commit to take “all necessary steps” to strengthen their economies and combat financial stresses.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose nation has pushed stiff austerity measures for deeply indebted countries like Greece, said all the leaders agreed that fiscal discipline must be balanced with efforts to encourage growth.
“We completely agreed that we need both – fiscal discipline, restructuring of our budgets and at the same time all efforts for growth,” said Merkel. “The two determine each other, that means it is important to work on both tracks. All participants made this clear here today and we think that is significant progress.”
Before the conference opened, U.S. President Barack Obama said he would press his fellow G8 leaders (from Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia) to give more weight to pro-growth measures as they combat the mounting debt that has threatened the stability of the eurozone.
“All of us are absolutely committed to making sure that both growth and stability, and fiscal consolidation, are part of [an] overall package that all of us have to pursue in order to achieve the kind of prosperity for our citizens that we’re looking for,” said Obama.
President Obama said the participants would also talk about uncertainty in the energy markets and developments in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan.
Obama said Friday’s dinner talks gave the officials a chance to discuss core issues affecting their nations’ common security, including Iran, Syria and North Korea.
Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, Obama said the G8 is firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions.
“I want to say that we are unified when it comes to our approach with Iran,” said Obama. “I think all of us agree that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear power, but that its continuing violations of international rules and norms and its inability thus far to convince the world community that it’s not pursuing the weaponization of nuclear power is something of grave concern to all of us.”
Regarding the ongoing violence in Syria, he said the eight world powers support the peace plan brokered by international envoy and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, but want to see the situation improve more quickly.
“We all believe that a peaceful resolution and political transition in Syria is preferable,” Obama noted. “We are all deeply concerned about the violence that’s taking place there and the loss of life. We are supportive of the Annan plan, but we agreed, and I expect this will be reflected in our communique, that the Annan plan has to be fully implemented and that a political process has to move forward in a more timely fashion to resolve that issue.”
The leaders also discussed North Korea, with Obama saying they all agree the North Koreans are violating their international obligations and that they will not be able to rejoin the international community if they continue with the “provocative actions” he said they have shown over the last several months.
Other topics of discussion included Burma’s political transformation and the issue of women’s empowerment.
President Obama described the conversation as “fruitful,” “frank” and “useful” and said it gives him great optimism about the G8′s ability to meet these challenges.
The Camp David summit is part of four days of diplomacy for President Obama who departs, late Saturday, to a NATO summit in Chicago. NATO officials will focus on the war in Afghanistan.