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G7 To Set Up Group To Study Russia's 'Malign Behavior'

The G7 foreign ministers hold a working session in Toronto on April 22.
The G7 foreign ministers hold a working session in Toronto on April 22.

The Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized countries has decided to create a working group to address what British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called Russia's "malign behavior."

Johnson said on April 23 that the group would look at "Russian malign behavior in all its manifestations, whether it's cyberwar, whether it's disinformation, assassination attempts, whatever it happens to be, and collectively try and call it out."

He spoke to reporters in Toronto, Canada, where the G7 foreign ministers wrapped up a two-day meeting that also included talks on the Iran nuclear deal with world powers, the seven-year conflict in Syria, and the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

Along with Britain and Canada, the G7 also includes the United States, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan.

Tensions between Moscow and the West have increased in recent years over Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and its alleged attempts to meddle in elections in Western countries.

More recently, London blamed Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain last month -- a charge that Russia denies.

"We all share deep concerns about what we agree is unacceptable behavior including the despicable nerve agent attack in the U.K.," Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told a closing news conference.

Freeland also said the G7 countries were "united" in their resolve to work together to respond to "this continued flaunting of international laws," adding that the working group would help democracies from being undermined.

"Russia is so unbelievably clever at kind of sowing doubt and confusion and spreading all this fake news and trying to muddy the waters," Johnson said. "We think there's a role for the G7 in just trying to provide some clarity."

On Syria, acting U.S. Secretary of State John Sullivan said that "Russia must be a constructive partner in Syria or will be held accountable."

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters that there would be "no political solution in Syria without Russia" and that Moscow "has to contribute its share to such a solution."

The G7 ministers met in Toronto less than two weeks after the United States, France, and Britain launched air strikes in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical-weapons attack that killed dozens in the town of Douma, near Damascus.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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