Mon, 16 Sep 2019

European Council President Donald Tusk has rejected President Donald Trump's suggestion that Russia be readmitted to the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations.

Tusk told a G7 summit in France on August 24 that there were now even more reasons than before for keeping Moscow out.

Russia was kicked out of the grouping, previously known as the G8, in 2014 after it illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea region and then backed pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.

'One year ago, in Canada, President Trump suggested reinviting Russia to G7, stating openly that Crimea's annexation by Russia was partially justified. And that we should accept this fact,' Tusk said at the G7 meeting on August 24.

'Under no condition can we agree with this logic,' said Tusk, who represents the European Union's 28 member states.

Earlier this week Germany, France, and Britain also rejected the idea of inviting Russia back into the G7.

Tusk said on August 24 that the reasons for Moscow's ejection from the G7 remain valid.

He told the summit in the French resort area of Biarritz that there were new reasons since 2014 for its continued exclusion, including 'the Russian provocation on the Azov Sea,' a reference to Russia's illegal seizure of Ukrainian Navy ships and sailors in international waters off the coast of Crimea.

'Second: when Russia was invited to G7 for the first time, it was believed that it would pursue the path of liberal democracy, rule of law, and human rights,' Tusk said. 'Is there anyone among us, who can say with full conviction, not out of business calculation, that Russia is on that path?'

Tusk said he would try to convince leaders at the G7 summit that it would be better to invite Ukraine's president to the grouping's next meeting rather than invite Russia back.

G7 leaders gathered in southwest France on August 24 for the start of the meeting, with an agenda that includes Trump's call for Russia's reentry into the group and Iran's nuclear program.

G7 leaders are also discussing the escalation of a trade war between the United States and China that has raised concerns about a possible global recession.

On the eve of the summit, tit-for-tat announcements by China and Trump sent stock prices tumbling on Wall Street with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 2.4 percent on August 23 -- ending lower for the fourth straight week.

Analysts are closely watching Trump and his relations with the rest of the grouping at the two-day summit.

Johnson 'Very Worried'

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on August 24 that he would be telling Trump to pull back from the U.S.-China trade war that already is destabilizing economic growth around the world.

Johnson said his priorities at the summit 'are clearly the state of global trade. I am very worried about the way it's going, the growth of protectionism, of tariffs that we're seeing.'

Upon his departure from Washington, Trump told reporters that he expected "very productive" talks with his fellow G7 members. He also called on France to drop plans to impose sales taxes on U.S. tech giants such as Google and Facebook, threatening to retaliate with tariffs on French wines.

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) with French President Emmanuel Macron in Biarritz on August 24.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped to convince G7 leaders to pull back from a trade war.

'[I want] to convince all our partners that tensions, and trade tensions in particular are bad for everybody,' Macron said in a televised address on August 24.

Tusk also said on August 24 that trade wars among the seven nations would further erode trust between them. He said that if Trump was using tariffs as a political tool it could be risky for the whole world.

Shortly after arriving in Biarritz, Trump had informal talks with Macron over lunch.

Asked if he would follow through on his threat to place tariffs on French wines in retaliation for France's digital services tax, Trump was noncommittal, saying only that 'I love French wine.'

Along with the other leaders from the G7 nations -- Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attending as a guest and will meet individually with many other participants, most likely to discuss the Kashmir crisis.

Macron had said earlier that he would press Trump to sign a charter protecting biodiversity amid the continuing fires that are devastating the Amazon rain forest in Brazil.

Rain Forest 'Ecocide'

The G7 meeting last year in Quebec, Canada, ended in disarray with the U.S. president accusing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making 'false statements' regarding a final communique, which the United States did not endorse.

This year, Washington has been pushing European allies to help put 'maximum pressure' on Iran -- through sanctions and other means -- to force Tehran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program.

A British diplomatic source in Biarritz told Reuters that 'we are strong supporters' of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of in May 2018, when he claimed the terms were not strict enough.

'We think that it is very important that Iran doesn't get the nuclear weapons...It is important that it continues and I don't think you will find any change in the British government position,' the source said.

The source added, though, that it was crucial for Iran to comply fully with the 2015 accord, adding that while Johnson would listen to the U.S. position, the British government is not planning to make any radical changes to its approach.

Macron said on August 23 that he wanted the leading industrialized nations to also address the 'ecocide' that is going on in the Amazon rain forest, which has been struck by a massive number of fires. Experts say many of the fires have been caused by farmers setting the forest ablaze to clear more land for pasture.

His comments have angered Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who blasted what he called Macron's 'colonialist mentality.'

Many of the leaders are also expected to discuss the crisis in Kashmir with India's Modi.

Tensions have risen since Hindu-led India on said August 5 that it would strip the majority-Muslim region of its special status, which sparked resentment in Indian-administered Kashmir and across the border in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, as well as in Islamabad.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since they gained independence from Britain in 1947, but both sides claim the territory in its entirety.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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