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G7 Unified In Opposing Russia’s ‘Malign' Acts, U.S. Official Says

Group of Seven foreign ministers meet in Toronto on April 22.
Group of Seven foreign ministers meet in Toronto on April 22.

A senior U.S. official has told reporters that foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations remain determined to oppose Russia’s efforts to "destabilize" nations around the world.

"There was a G7 unity on opposing Russia's malign behavior," said the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on April 22, the first day of the G7 foreign ministers' two-day meeting in Toronto.

Nevertheless, the official said there remains an openness to talk to Russia over various important issues while still holding Moscow accountable for its destabilizing efforts around the globe.

Reuters earlier quoted sources as saying the meeting's final statement would maintain an uncompromising line with Moscow, which the G7 has condemned for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and for its backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"The language will be tough because of what the Russians have done until now," one source said. "But it can also be interpreted as leaving the door open."

"We are saying to them, 'If you want to be treated as a great power, then work with us'," the source added.

Reuters quoted a senior official from one G7 nation as saying the foreign ministers were concerned about what they viewed as a pattern of Russian misbehavior over the past several years.

The G7 has also blamed Russia for a nerve-agent attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter last month in Britain. Russia has denied involvement.

Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told his G7 counterparts that Russia was using his country as a test ground for its information war against Western democracy.

"Fundamentally, Ukraine is perceived by many, and also by Russia, as a sort of test range for testing Russian nonconventional warfare -- hybrid war," Klimkin said while urging the West to take a stronger stand in resisting Kremlin efforts.

Canada's top diplomat, Chrystia Freeland, had invited the representative from Ukraine -- which is not a G7 member -- to speak with the group's ministers. Freeland had pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin as playing a major role in disrupting global affairs.

She said G7 members had "reaffirmed our unity in support of Ukraine and a rules-based international order where state sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected by all."

The G7 ministers also discussed the 2015 nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran and efforts to seek a supplemental agreement that would satisfy U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand to "fix" what he sees as flaws in the deal, the senior State Department official said.

"We've been negotiating with the Europeans," a senior US official, accompanying Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan, told reporters. "We've made a great deal of progress, but we're not there yet."

The G7 consists of the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan.

With reporting by The Toronto Star, Reuters, AFP, and AP
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