Sun, Dec 02, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Prince mingles, Trump fuels tensions

DYSFUNCTIONAL ‘FAMILY’:Putin took shots at Trump over the cancelation of a meeting, while May and Macron raised the killing of a critic with Prince Mohammad


Fissures on trade, climate change and Ukraine on Friday divided world leaders as US President Donald Trump came under sustained fire and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler came in from the cold at the G20 summit.

The leaders of countries representing four-fifths of the global economy opened a two-day meeting in Argentina facing the deepest fractures since the first G20 summit convened 10 years ago in the throes of a financial crisis.

Trump was attacked for destroying the group’s past unity on trade and climate change, but he won a breakthrough with the signing of a new trade pact for North America and, having ignited a trade war with China, touted “good signs” ahead of a dinner today with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

The summit began in Buenos Aires with a traditional “family photo” of the leaders of a group whose relationships range from warm and friendly to chilly and distrustful.

Elsewhere in Buenos Aires, as Argentina goes through a painful economic crisis, tens of thousands of protesters rallied peacefully to denounce the government for spending millions on the summit while the public endures rocketing inflation and unemployment.

They paraded with signs attacking Trump and the IMF, whose largesse is keeping Argentina afloat at the cost of hard-hitting austerity measures.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, under pressure after his security forces seized three Ukrainian ships, set the tone for a combative two days by condemning the “vicious” use of sanctions and trade protectionism.

The target was clear, as Trump — who canceled a planned meeting with Putin in Buenos Aires — tears up the stability promoted by the G20 powers a decade ago.

During a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, a French aide said that Putin drew a map of the strait off Crimea to buttress his position that the Ukrainian ships had intruded into Russian waters — a claim denied by Kiev.

Earlier, Putin grinned broadly and welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman like a long-lost friend with an enthusiastic handshake after the group photo, in which Trump looked on somberly and Xi stood impassively.

The summit marks a quick return to the international stage for Prince Mohammad after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May raised the murder of Khashoggi during meetings with the 33-year-old prince.

May also told British media that she intended to use the summit to sell the vision of a “global Britain” after its departure from the EU, scheduled for March.

European Council President Donald Tusk was more focused on the Ukraine crisis, saying that he was “sure” the bloc would roll over its sanctions on Russia next month.

On the G20 front, Tusk said that the world was undergoing a “difficult moment” overall, as Trump pursues a vision at odds with the idea of collective action on trade and climate change.

US objections on those fronts have seen two major summits this year — the G7 and APEC — end without the once-routine statements.

The same disputes were hobbling adoption of a G20 communique, observers said.

One French source said that European leaders were trying to forge a separate statement on climate change excluding the US.

Such a statement would endorse the Paris agreement on climate change, repeating one issued at last year’s G20 in defiance of Trump, who has yanked the US out of the pact, despite increasingly urgent warnings from scientists in advance of a UN climate meeting starting in Poland next week.

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