President Obama has told a hall full of school children in Belfast the peace achieved in Northern Ireland "gave the entire world hope".

Speaking in advance of the G8 meeting in Lough Erne on Monday, the Obama told an audience of around 2,000 students what happend in Northern Ireland was a model for how to resolve conflict across the world.

"What happened here has an impact on lives far from these green shores. You must remind us of the existence of peace, the possibility of peace, you have to remind us of hope again, and again and again," he said.

"To those of you who choose the path of peace, the United States will support you every step of the way. We will always be the wind at your back."

He added: "This little island that inspires the biggest of things, this little island, its best days are ahead. When peace was achieved here, it gave the entire world hope."

Obama received a rapturous reception from the students and drew laughter as he asked: "What's the craic?".

Fifteen years after the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement which cleared the way for the power-sharing executive in Belfast, the president praised the work of Northern Ireland's political leaders. But he said "ultimately peace is not just about politics, it's about attitudes."

He said: "It's about a sense of empathy, it's about breaking down the divisions we create for ouselves in our own minds that dont exist in any objective reality."

Obama's speech in Belfast's Waterfront Hall came as world leaders gathered for a two-day summit that was supposed to focus on economic issues, including a planned EU/US free trade deal and measures to crack down on tax havens.

However the meetings are likely to be dominated by talks on how to resolve to bloody conflict in Syria. Last week the United States said it intended to start arming the anti-Assad rebel forces, a move strongly opposed by Russia.

David Cameron insisted that no decision has yet been made on whether Britain should send arms, and repeated his assurance that he would "never stand in the way" of the House of Commons voting on any such move.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • G8 Summit

    US President Barack Obama delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • BRITAIN-G8-SUMMIT-OBAMA-ARRIVAL

    US President Barack Obama (2nd L), his wife Michelle (2nd R) and daughters Sasha (front) and Malia (R) are greeted by Joan Christie, The Queen's official representative in County Antrim, upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen. AFP PHOTO/ PETER MUHLY (Photo credit should read PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama, Malia Obama

    U.S. President Barack Obama, third from left, arrives at Aldergrove International Airport with, from left, daughter Malia, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughter Sasha on Monday, June 17, 2013, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Obama is attending the G-8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland where leaders are expected to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria, and free-trade issues. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

  • G8 Summit

    Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second right), is welcomed by a Japanese embassy defence attach, as he arrives at Belfast International Airport, as G8 leaders from around the world begin to arrive in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit.

  • Barack Obama, Sasha Obama

    President Barack Obama waves as he arrives at Aldergrove International airport with his daughter Sasha, in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Monday, June 17, 2013. Obama is attending the G-8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland where leaders are expected to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria, and free-trade issues. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

  • Barack Obama, Sasha Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia Obama

    U.S. President Barack Obama, left, arrives with, from left, daughter Sasha, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughter Malia, at Aldergrove International airport on Monday, June 17, 2013, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Obama is attending the G-8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, where leaders are expected to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria, and free-trade issues. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

  • G8 Summit

    Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers (second right) and Wing Commander Faye Wiseman (left) after arriving at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • BRITAIN-G8-SUMMIT-OBAMA-ARRIVAL

    US President Barack Obama waves as he exits Air Force One with his daughter Sasha upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen. AFP PHOTO/ PETER MUHLY (Photo credit should read PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-G8-SUMMIT-OBAMA-ARRIVAL

    US President Barack Obama waves as he exits Air Force One with his daughter Sasha upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen. AFP PHOTO/ PETER MUHLY (Photo credit should read PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • G8 Summit

    Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • BRITAIN-G8-SUMMIT-OBAMA-ARRIVAL

    US President Barack Obama waves as he exits Air Force One with his daughter Sasha upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen. AFP PHOTO/ PETER MUHLY (Photo credit should read PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-G8-SUMMIT-OBAMA-ARRIVAL

    US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One with his wife Michelle (2nd R) and daughters Sasha (front R) and Malia (back R) upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen. AFP PHOTO/ PETER MUHLY (Photo credit should read PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-G8-SUMMIT-OBAMA-ARRIVAL

    US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One with his daughter Sasha upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen. AFP PHOTO/ PETER MUHLY (Photo credit should read PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • G8 Summit

    Flags of Japan and the United Kingdom are seen on the aircraft carrying Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he arrives at Belfast International Airport, as G8 leaders from around the world begin to arrive in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    US President Barack Obama delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    US President Barack Obama delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    Tight security is show as US President Barak Obama arrives at Belfast Waterfront Hall before delivering his keynote address ahead of the G8 summit.

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama gestures during a speech at the Belfast Waterfront Hall on Monday June 17, 2013, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Obama is attending the G-8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland where leaders are expected to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria, and free-trade issues. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

  • G8 Summit

    Michelle Obama, the wife of the US President Barack Obama, delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama gestures during a speech at the Belfast Waterfront Hall on Monday June 17, 2013, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Obama is attending the G-8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland where leaders are expected to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria, and free-trade issues. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

  • G8 Summit

    Michelle Obama, the wife of the US President Barack Obama, delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    Michelle Obama, the wife of the US President Barack Obama, delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    US President Barack Obama prior to delivering a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    Michelle Obama, the wife of the US President Barack Obama, waves to the crowd before she delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    Michelle Obama, the wife of the US President Barack Obama, applauds the crowd before she delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    Michelle Obama, the wife of the US President Barack Obama, delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    US President Barack Obama delivers a keynote address at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, ahead of the G8 Summit.

  • G8 Summit

    Tight security is show as US President Barak Obama arrives at Belfast Waterfront Hall before delivering his keynote address ahead of the G8 summit.