G20 summit: David Cameron urges protection from chemical attacks in Syria's civil war as Obama arrives to awkward greeting from Putin

As the world's leaders gather - and Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin exchange a much-anticipated greeting - Mr Cameron warns of the 'worst refugee crisis this century'

St Petersburg

David Cameron issued an urgent call for drugs and equipment to help Syrian people survive further nerve gas attacks today as the leaders of the world’s main economic powers met for the G20 summit.

Attention turned to the arrival of Barack Obama, whose handshake with host Vladimir Putin was best described as business-like.  Only once they turned to pose for the world’s media did the US president break into a grin.

US-Russia relations are steely at best after Washington cancelled talks between the two presidents a fortnight ago, and their co-operation - or confrontation - is set to dominate the summit.

Early briefings inevitably revolved around the ongoing Syrian crisis – for while the gathering is intended to discuss primarily economic matters, the spiral towards war in the Middle East continues to hold the attention of most of the statesmen attending.

The Prime Minister took the opportunity to urge his fellow leaders to set up a supply of antidote medicines, decontamination tents and other kit to protect opposition-held areas, fearing that they are in danger if chemical weapons are used again.

Mr Cameron also warned of the “worst refugee crisis this century” as he arrived at the St Petersburg talks and called on the other countries represented to give more money.

It came as German intelligence said they had seen phone transcripts that suggest the Assad regime resorted to chemical weapons in fear that it was losing control of major parts of Damascus to opposition fighters.

Mr Cameron warned of a “perilous” risk of another chemical attack that would mean “Armageddon” for civilian populations.

America says sarin nerve gas killed more than 1,400 people in the attack last month that triggered Mr Obama’s call for military action to punish and degrade the Assad regime.  British intelligence says at least 350 people died in the attack, which was “highly likely” to have been carried out by Assad.

The Prime Minister, sidelined from talks on military action following last week’s vote in Parliament against war, was using the G20 to focus on humanitarian issues and to rattle the tin for more aid, challenging leaders to match the £348 million being pumped in by Britain alone.

“We are facing the worst refugee crisis of this century and millions of lives are being destroyed inside in Syria by Assad and his regime,” the Prime Minister said.

”The world needs to do more to help the innocent victims of this conflict who dreamt of a democratic and peaceful future but who are now living a nightmare far from their homes and struggling to feed their families and keep them safe.“

”I will be using the G20 to ensure their needs are heard and to ensure the international community responds. We must make more money available for aid agencies to help ease the suffering and we must put pressure on both sides in the conflict to improve access so aid workers can get to those who most need help.“

Mr Cameron’s key calls are for donor countries to fill a massive funding gap identified by humanitarian agencies. He will signal Britain will lead by example and put more money on the table but that we want others to do more too.

Pressure on Assad to give safe passage to humanitarian workers and aid convoys is seen as vital to easing the refugee crisis. As is cutting on custom rules and red tape which make it hard for aid workers to deliver swift relief on the ground.

Some 6.8 million people inside Syria need humanitarian assistance, the UN estimates – equivalent to the entire population of Scotland, Birmingham and Manchester combined.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - London - up to £44,000

£38000 - £44000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manag...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Control Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing company is a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultants - Liverpool

£27300 - £36400 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Self-employed B2B Sales Consult...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn