Harper at odds with Russia over Syria as G8 leaders meet

Leaders have arrived at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he is drawing a clear line between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the leaders when it comes to Syria.

PM says it's 7 countries against 1, as he blasts Russian support for Assad 'thugs'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland on Monday to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen. (Peter Muhly/Associated Press)

The G8 summit is underway in Northern Ireland, where leaders are scheduled to discuss tax evasion and transparency, but Syria is also expected to dominate the agenda.

Leaders of the G8 nations were greeted at the summit site on Monday afternoon local time by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who told reporters that it's a "strong agenda" and he looks forward to meeting with the other leaders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived at the G8 summit after saying Sunday that he is drawing a clear line between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the leaders when it comes to Syria.

Harper says it's clear that it's really seven countries against one — Russia — and that he does not expect Putin to drop his long-standing support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Look, I think that dialogue will be interesting. I think it's important to have that kind of dialogue. But I don't think we should fool ourselves. This is G7 plus one. OK, let's be blunt. That's what this is, G7 plus one," Harper said.

"We in the west have a very different perspective on this situation. Mr. Putin and his government are supporting the thugs of the Assad regime for their own reasons that I do not think are justifiable, and Mr. Putin knows my view on that."

"But we will not, unless there's a big shift of position on his part, we're not going to get a common position with him at the G8."

Putin has defended Russias's stance, saying that western nations shouldn't arm fighters who eat human flesh.

"One does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras," Putin said.

"Are these the people you want to support? Are they the ones you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to the humanitarian values preached in Europe for hundreds of years."

Putin was referring to a recent video showing a Syrian rebel eating the heart of a dead soldier.

Russia disputes chemical weapons use

Topping the agenda at the annual meeting of leaders of the world's eight richest countries is how to end the bloody conflict that has now raged for two years in Syria.

Tensions escalated this past week after the United States announced it would begin arming opponents of Assad's regime because it has proof chemical weapons were used against the rebels.

Russia — which is in the G8 and has a permanent seat on the United Nations security council — has dismissed those U.S. claims, saying they're based on flimsy evidence.

Harper was in Dublin on Sunday and met Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, ahead of the G8 summit.

He says the rest of the G8 and NATO need to find a way to end the Syrian conflict without Russia.

"I think what's important," Harper said, "is that we continue to work with our allies in the G7 and in NATO to see how we can move the situation in a positive direction where we get the transition towards a government that is genuinely representative, broadly based, democratic, not a threat to the world and certainly, not embracing of terrorist or extremist elements."

Earlier Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told CTV and Global News that he is loath to criticize the U.S. for arming the rebels, and he expressed confidence the Americans will be careful about who they give weapons to.

But Harper ruled out — for now — Canada arming the rebels.

Canada pledges $100M aid for Jordan

"We are not, in Canada at the present time, we are not contemplating arming the opposition in Syria," Harper said.

"I understand — fully understand — why our allies would do that, particularly given recent actions by Russia, Iran and others. But our aid, at the present time and our aid for now, will continue to be humanitarian aid."

Canada is contributing $25 million in aid to help Jordan improve security at at camps for Syrian refugees. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

Canada has earmarked $100 million in aid for neighboring Jordan, which is coping with the fallout from Syria's civil war.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calls the aid "unprecedented" and says it is aimed at helping Jordan take care of the thousands of Syrian refugees streaming across its borders while dealing with its own economic challenges.

The support consists of $75 million over three years to help Jordan promote job creation and economic development.

Another $25 million is to help Jordan beef up security at sprawling refugee camps and protect Jordanians against potential chemical and biological weapons attack by the Syrian government.

This is latest — and largest —infusion of aid to Jordan since the Syrian civil war started two years ago.

Canada has previously committed just over $16 million to help Jordan.

With files from Reuters