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G7 Leaders Agree On Trade, Russia Sanctions, Split On Climate Change

  • RFE/RL

French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump, and British Prime Minister Theresa May (left to right) at the G7 summit in Sicily on May 26.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) leading global economies have vowed to fight against trade protectionism and expressed a readiness to impose further sanctions on Russia, but they failed to settle a disagreement with U.S. President Donald Trump on climate change.

A final communique issued on May 27 after a two-day summit in the resort town of Taormina, Sicily, said Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan reaffirmed their “strong commitment” to the implementation of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement.

However, the United States “is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and, thus, is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics," it added.

Trump, who has previously threatened to pull out of the Paris accord, announced in a tweet that he will make his final decision on the matter next week.

"The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying," Merkel told reporters. "There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not."

Merkel said the debate over trade was also "very tough," but she expressed satisfaction that Trump agreed to language in the communique that pledges to keep markets open and to “fight protectionism,” while standing firm against “all unfair trade practices.”

The G7 leaders also expressed readiness to take additional action against Russia, if warranted, for its intervention in Ukraine.

"We recall that the duration of sanctions is clearly linked to Russia's complete implementation of its commitments in the Minsk [peace] agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty," the communique said.

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) speaks with the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, at the G7 summit.
U.S. President Donald Trump (left) speaks with the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, at the G7 summit.

Since 2014, the EU and United States have maintained sanctions on Russia over its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its actions in eastern Ukraine, where a war between Russia-backed separatists and government forces has killed more than 9,900 people.

"Sanctions can be rolled back when Russia meets its commitments,” the statement said. “However, we also stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia should its actions so require."

On Syria, the G7 leaders demanded support from Russia and Iran for the peace process. Moscow and Tehran support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the six-year-old civil war, while the United States and Turkey support differing rebel groups.

They also condemned “in the strongest terms” North Korea's recent nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, and said they were ready to “strengthen measures” after various rounds of UN sanctions.

On migration, the leaders agreed on “the sovereign rights of states, individually, and collectively, to control their own borders and to establish policies in their own national interest and national security."

"Properly managed flows can bring economic and social benefits to countries of both origin and destination as well as to migrants and refugees themselves," it added.

Earlier on May 27, the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia joined the G7 summit, along with representatives of the African Union, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, host of the meeting, said in opening remarks that the talks on Africa would focus on “the need for a partnership across all sectors,” with innovation and development “our core objective.”

In a speech, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger called on the G7 leaders to take urgent measures to end the chaos in Libya and criticized them for not keeping to aid promises to fight poverty in West Africa.

Italy chose to host the G7 summit in Sicily to draw attention to the African migrants who risk the crossing of the Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe. More than half a million such migrants have landed in Italy since 2014.

On the first day of the summit, G7 leaders signed a joint statement calling on Internet service providers and social media companies to “substantially increase their efforts to address terrorist content."

The leaders also vowed a joint effort to track down and prosecute foreign fighters from conflict areas such as Syria.

And they voiced solidarity with Britain after the May 22 suicide bombing in Manchester in which 22 people were killed, including many children. The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

WATCH: G7 Leaders Stroll Through Taormina

Earlier, European Council President Donald Tusk said the gathering would "no doubt" be "the most challenging G7 summit in years."

Some of the participants hold "very different positions on topics such as climate change and trade," Tusk said as he opened the summit.

Tusk also called on G7 leaders to maintain sanctions on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine.

"Since our last G7 summit in Japan, we haven't seen anything that would justify a change in our sanctions policy towards Russia," Tusk, who coordinates policy for the EU's 28 leaders, told reporters.

Tusk spoke a day after White House economic adviser Gary Cohn indicated that Trump had not decided to extend the U.S. sanctions.

"I think the president is looking at it,” Cohn told reporters on Air Force One en route to Sicily for the summit. “Right now, we don’t have a position."

However, on May 26, Cohn came out strongly in favor of sanctions, saying, “We are not lowering our sanctions on Russia."

"If anything, we would probably look to get tougher on Russia," he told reporters.

Cohn also said that Trump's views on climate were "evolving."

"He came here to learn and get smarter," Cohn told journalists. "He said: 'I would rather take my time and understand the issues and then get to the right decision on that.'"

The G7 summit was the last leg of Trump's first foreign trip since taking office in January -- a nine-day tour of the Middle East and Europe.

After visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, Trump met Pope Francis in Rome on May 24 and held talks May 25 with the heads of the European Union and the NATO military alliance in Brussels.

In a tweet on May 26, Trump said his first trip abroad has been "very successful."

"Just arrived in Italy for the G7. Trip has been very successful. We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs."

However, former U.S. State Department official, Ambassador Reuben Brigety, told RFE/RL on May 26 that Trump's first trip abroad had yet to articulate a positive view on how the United States would engage its traditional allies.

"The president's team have a lot of work to do when they get back to Washington to refashion American foreign policy in coherent manner, on one that can be something that the rest of the world can depend on," Brigety, now the dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and the BBC
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