SLIGO, Ireland - After decades of violence in Northern Ireland, peace there serves as a "blueprint" for ending conflicts around the world, President Obama said today, though cautioning that "there's still much work to do."
"You set an example for those who seek a peace of their own," the president told a gathering of young people at Belfast's Waterfront Hall shortly after arriving in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit. "You are their proof of what's possible. Hope is contagious. And they are watching to see what you do next.
"The terms of peace may be negotiated by leaders, but the fate of peace is up to you," he added.
Obama urged the first generation to grow up in a time of peace to continue to break down barriers, telling them the work of peace "is as urgent now as it has ever been."
"There is more to lose now than there has ever been. In today's hyperconnected world, what happens here has an impact on lives far from these green shores. If you continue your courageous path towards a permanent peace, and all the social and economic benefits that come with it, that won't just be good for you. It will be good for this entire island, for the United Kingdom, for Europe; and it will be good for the world," he said.
The president vowed that the United States "will always stand by" Northern Ireland. "We will keep working closely with leaders in Stormont, and Dublin, and Westminster to support your political progress," he said.
The president now turns his attention to the G8 Summit, where the crisis in Syria is expected to top the agenda.
Days after the White House confirmed the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Obama will meet face-to-face today with Assad's ally Russian President Putin.
Russia has publicly questioned U.S. evidence that Assad has used chemical weapons and disagrees that Assad must step down from power for a political settlement to be successful.
Obama and Putin's meeting today, their first in a year, comes one day after Putin publicly defended Russian arms sales to Syria.
"I think you will not deny that one does not really need to back the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies and eat their intestines," Putin said. "Do you want to support these people? Do you want to supply these people with arms?"