Europe's fiscal crisis takes center stage at G8 Camp David summit

CAMP ROUND MEADOW, Md. – Beginning a second day of meetings at the Camp David G8 summit, President Obama presented a unified front on Saturday when it comes to tackling the European debt crisis, the biggest issue hanging over the talks.

Speaking to reporters before the meetings with the world leaders, Obama said the group discussed the path forward with the Eurozone at dinner on Friday night.

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“We all agreed that growth and fiscal consolidation should be a part of an overall package that all of us have to pursue in order for us to achieve the prosperity for our citizens that we’re looking for.”

In the meetings on Saturday, Obama said the group of leaders would also discuss the “uncertainty in the energy markets and how to resolve some of those issues. The leaders are also expected to discuss development in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Afghanistan.

“So far this has been a frank and useful conversation,” Obama told reporters at the presidential retreat.

The group of eight leaders put out a statement later Saturday saying they welcomed the discussion about how to "generate growth, while maintaining a firm commitment to implement fiscal consolidation to be assessed on a structural basis."

The leaders said they agree on the importance of a "strong and cohesive Eurozone for global stability and recovery" and touted their support for Greece — which is in financial turmoil — remaining in the Eurozone "while respecting its commitments."

"We all have an interest in the success of specific measures to strengthen the resilience of the Eurozone and growth in Europe," the leaders said in the statement. "We support Euro Area Leaders’ resolve to address the strains in the Eurozone in a credible and timely manner and in a manner that fosters confidence, stability and growth."

Obama and other world leaders opened the Camp David G8 summit on Friday evening discussing a “dual track” approach with Iran while also attempting to focus on the political transition in Syria.

At a two-hour dinner with leaders at the presidential retreat, Obama and the other world leaders — including the newly elected French President Francois Hollande — discussed the way forward with Iran with the intention of increasing pressure on the regime with a unified front.

“We are unified on our approach to Iran,” Obama told reporters on Saturday. “All of us are firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions.

“And our hope is that we can resolve this issue in a peaceful fashion that respects Iran’s sovereignty and its rights in the international community but also recognizes its responsibilities.”

Turning to Syria, the leaders discussed supporting the Kofi Annan plan and its call for political transition.

"We all believe that a peaceful resolution and political transition in Syria is preferable," Obama said on Saturday, adding that the Annan plan "has to be filly implemented and that a political process has to move forward in a more timely fashion."

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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appeared to support an international consensus on both issues, a senior administration official said. When the subject turned to Syria, there was not any disagreement among the world leaders that there needs to be a political transition. But the nature of the transition will be worked out in further detail in the coming days.

Sitting at a round table at the retreat’s Laurel Lodge, Obama and the other leaders also discussed North Korea, saying that if the country continues down the path of provocation, it will lead to deepened isolation, according to a senior administration official familiar with the dinner.

The two-day summit at Camp David — the first of its kind at the lush presidential retreat during Obama’s presidency — comes as Europe faces increasing economic turmoil. That issue appeared foremost on the minds of the eight leaders who gathered at the retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

White House photoObama — who is worried the Eurozone crisis could hurt the rebounding U.S. economy — and the leaders were expected to spend a considerable amount of time on Saturday trying to help jump-start the global economy.

On Friday as the leaders of the industrialized nations were arriving at the presidential retreat, the mood was light and relatively upbeat. And the world leaders seemed fond of their surroundings.

Upon entering the rustic lodge on Friday evening, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev quipped to Obama:  “This is my new place!”

British Prime Minister David Cameron also seemed to appreciate Obama’s infrequently visited vacation digs.

"This is a nice, peaceful spot,” Cameron said.

“It’s not bad,” Obama replied.

But Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who has found herself at the center of the Eurozone crisis, seemed a little underwhelmed.

After Obama greeted her kisses on both cheeks, asking, “How have you been?”

Merkel shrugged.

“Well, you had a few things on your mind,” Obama replied. 

After pushing for strict fiscal austerity measures in troubled European economies, which contributed to further unemployment, Merkel said this week she was open to stimulus programs in Greece to spur growth.

Updated at 1:05 p.m.