G7 warns Russia of more sanctions, pledges climate action
At a luxury retreat nestled in the picture-perfect Bavarian Alps, the leaders of the most powerful countries also tackled threats to global security posed by Islamist extremism and risks to the world economy from Greece.
For the third time, Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin was barred from a G7 summit due to what US President Barack Obama termed his “aggression in Ukraine”, as the Group of Seven top powers closed ranks against Russia.
“We … stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase cost on Russia should its actions so require,” said the leaders in a joint communique after the two-day huddle.
“We recall that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the leaders added, referring to a peace deal struck in the Belarus capital.
The tough line from the world’s power brokers came as Ukraine’s defence minister accused pro-Russian rebels — backed by Moscow — of deploying an army of 40,000 men on the Ukrainian border, equivalent to a “mid-sized European state.”
A recent flare-up in fighting in the east has left at least 28 dead and threatened the Minsk ceasefire deal.
Sanctions could also be “rolled back” if Russia lived up to its commitments, the communique said.
“Ultimately this is going to be an issue for Mr Putin. He’s got to make a decision,” said Obama.
“Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire or does he recognise that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating” other countries’ territory, he asked.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hosting the talks, noted Russia was involved in resolving several other global crises and called for their “cooperation.”
Nevertheless, in a pointed barb at Moscow, she stressed that “the G7 shares common values like freedom, democracy and human rights. Therefore one can say that the G7 is a community that assumes responsibility.”
– ‘Hateful ideology’ –
The leaders also sought to thrash out other threats to global security over a lunch of Thai chicken soup, trout and a peach dessert with almonds.
In an unusual move, the G7 leaders invited the heads of countries threatened by jihadist groups, including the leaders of Nigeria and Iraq, both battling deadly insurgencies.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was invited to discuss the US-led campaign to help his country fight the Islamic State extremists who launched a lightning offensive a year ago and have snatched over a third of the country’s territory.
Abadi also got one-on-one time with Obama to discuss the Washington-led campaign to help Baghdad recover territory lost to IS militants, whose self-proclaimed “caliphate” extends deep into neighbouring Syria.
Another visitor to the summit, Nigeria’s newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari, put a “shopping list” to the G7 leaders, seeking help to fight an insurgency by Boko Haram Islamists blamed for 15,000 deaths since 2009.
“We reaffirm our commitment to defeating this terrorist group and combatting the spread of its hateful ideology,” said the leaders, in reference to the Islamic State group.
– Lederhosen and beers –
Meanwhile, ahead of a crunch year-end United Nations climate summit in Paris, the leaders stressed that “deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions” were required with “a decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century.”
The aim was to send a clear signal to push other nations taking part in the Paris meeting to commit to reducing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, which threaten to melt ice caps and glaciers, raise sea levels and bring more violent storms and floods.
Another pressing problem was the haggling between debt-hit Greece and its international creditors — the EU, ECB and IMF — and the fear that a messy default could lead to Greece exiting the eurozone, with unknown repercussions for the world economy.
Merkel warned “we don’t have much more time” to resolve the debt crisis, with Athens and its creditors — the IMF, the European Union and European Central Bank — having been locked in negotiations for five months on reforms needed to unlock 7.2 billion euros ($8 billion) in rescue funds that Athens desperately needs.
And Obama stressed that Greeks would have to make “tough” choices in terms of reforms but said they would be positive in the long term.
As has become tradition at such gatherings, thousands of anti-G7 protesters marched over the weekend in largely peaceful and colourful demonstrations.
The summit also provided some folksy moments, notably just before talks when Merkel invited Obama to have beer with lederhosen-wearing locals in a small Bavarian village.
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