Mon, Apr 23, 2018 - Page 1 News List

G7 ministers to discuss Russia, but not sanctions

PREPARATORY MEETING:Six foreign ministers and one acting US secretary of state were to discuss the G7 leaders’ June summit and recent political events

Reuters, TORONTO

Foreign ministers from the G7 leading industrialized nations were scheduled to discuss how to maintain pressure on Russia when they met yesterday, but extra sanctions were not on the agenda, officials said.

The ministers, in Toronto for a two-day meeting, would also review recent events in the Korean Peninsula, Syria, the Middle East and Venezuela.

The talks, due to end today, are to prepare for a G7 leaders’ summit in Canada in early June.

The G7 comprises the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.

The group last week condemned what it said was a Russian nerve agent attack in Britain.

Ministers were deeply worried about what the group saw as a pattern of Russian misbehavior going back years, a senior official from one member nation said.

“They are I think interested in a unified approach on how we express our profound concern and our disagreement and how we will work together to address them,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Russia denies any involvement in the attack.

Western nations have imposed a wide array of sanctions against Russia in the past few years after it annexed Crimea, supported militants operating in eastern Ukraine and backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas on Saturday urged Russia to help solve the Syria crisis, which has badly damaged already strained relations between the West and Russia.

“We need constructive contributions from Russia to reach a peaceful solution,” Maas said, adding that this was equally true of the Ukraine conflict.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been very critical of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian and Ukraine conflicts and backs continued EU sanctions against Moscow, but Maas hails from her junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, which has traditionally sought good ties with Russia.

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin was scheduled to take part in some of the sessions in Toronto.

The ministers would not discuss further punitive measures because Britain, France, Germany and Italy are members of the 28-nation EU, which must agree collectively on what steps to take, said two diplomats briefed on the meeting.

Also on the agenda would be North Korea, which on Saturday said it would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests and scrap its nuclear test site.

“This a small, but incremental and perhaps very impactful step in the right direction,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, US President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, has not yet been confirmed in his post so the US would be represented in Toronto by US acting Secretary of State John Sullivan.

Maas is scheduled to fly to New York later today, where he is to call for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for Germany.

Later in the week, he is due to take part in an international conference on Syria in Brussels that would focus on humanitarian aid for people in that nation.

“I will again affirm our support for the peace process under the aegis of the United Nations. We urgently need a political solution for this conflict that has gone on for far too long,” Maas said.

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