G-7 sum­mit a takes tough line on Rus­sia


The lead­ers of Ger­many and the United States ham­mered home a tough line on Rus­sia Sun­day at the start of a G- 7 sum­mit dom­i­nated by crises in Ukraine and Greece.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel kicked off the day by treat­ing U. S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to some tra­di­tional Bavar­ian beer gar­den hos­pi­tal­ity, with frothy ale, pret­zels and oom­pah brass mu­sic played by lo­cals in leder­ho­sen.

But af­ter the smiles in the sun­shine, both lead­ers is­sued a stark warn­ing to Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin over what Obama said was his “ag­gres­sion” in Ukraine.

“The two lead­ers ... agreed that the du­ra­tion of sanc­tions should be clearly linked to Rus­sia’s full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Minsk agree­ments and re­spect for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” a state­ment from the White House said, re­fer­ring to a cease- fire deal struck in the Be­larus cap­i­tal.

The folksy wel­come and dis­play of U. S.- Ger­man unity con­trasted sharply with the lead­ers’ line on Rus­sia, which was ex­cluded from the talks.

EU Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, also at­tend­ing the meet­ing at the heav­ily guarded El­mau Cas­tle retreat, said he wanted to “re­con­firm G- 7 unity on sanc­tions pol­icy” against Rus­sia, which he said would stay out of the G- 7 “com­mu­nity of val­ues” as long as “it be­haves ag­gres­sively with Ukraine and other coun­tries.”

The Ja­panese and Canadian lead­ers had Satur­day made a point of vis­it­ing Kiev on their way to Ger­many to voice sup­port for Ukraine’s em­bat­tled lead­ers, as gov­ern­ment troops again traded fire with pro- Rus­sian rebels in the east.

A key G- 7 is­sue would be “stand­ing up to Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in Ukraine,” Obama said ahead of talks with the United King­dom’s David Cameron, France’s Fran­cois Hol­lande, Italy’s Mat­teo Renzi, Canada’s Stephen Harper and Ja­pan’s Shinzo Abe.

Greece Debt Drama

Obama, with­out nam­ing cri­sis- hit Greece, also pointed at the Euro­pean Union’s on­go­ing trou­bles with debt- hit Athens, men­tion­ing as the top sum­mit is­sues “the global econ­omy that cre­ates jobs and op­por­tu­nity” and “main­tain­ing a strong and pros­per­ous Euro­pean Union.”

Merkel — a cham­pion of tough re­forms and aus­ter­ity in re­turn for loans — had made a last- ditch ef­fort to re­solve the Greek cri­sis in the days be­fore the G- 7 sum­mit, hud­dling dur­ing the week with the heads of the IMF, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank in Ber­lin.

Yet the Greek drama threat­ened to over­shadow the G- 7 sum­mit, which Merkel has hoped to fo­cus on other press­ing global is­sues — from cli­mate change and Is­lamist ex­trem­ism to women’s rights, public health ini­tia­tives and the fight against poverty.

Greece’s rad­i­cal- left gov­ern­ment and its cred­i­tors have been locked in ne­go­ti­a­tions for five months in a bid to un­lock 7.2 bil­lion eu­ros ( US$ 8 bil­lion) in des­per­ately- needed res­cue funds.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion last week pre­sented Greece with a five- page list of pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing sales tax hikes and cuts in civil ser­vants’ salaries and pen­sions.

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras re­jected the de­mands as “ab­surd,” while Athens with­held a 300- mil­lion- euro loan re­pay­ment to the IMF, opt­ing in­stead to group four sched­uled tranches into a sin­gle pay­ment at the end of the month.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ya­nis Varo­ufakis told Proto Thema daily Sun­day that the de­mands were “an ag­gres­sive move de­signed to ter­ror­ize the Greek gov­ern­ment” and de­clared “this Greek gov­ern­ment can­not be ter­ror­ized.”

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean- Claude Juncker said Sun­day that Athens had so far failed to pro­vide a list of al­ter­na­tive re­forms.

“Alexis Tsipras, my friend, had promised that by Thurs­day evening, he would present a sec­ond al­ter­na­tive pro­posal ... I have never re­ceived this al­ter­na­tive pro­posal,” he said.

Ring of Steel

Merkel had hoped to use the pic­ture- book set­ting of lush Bavar­ian mead­ows and mag­nif­i­cent moun­tain peaks to show­case the homely side of Europe’s big­gest econ­omy while search­ing for con­sen­sus on a cat­a­log of press­ing global is­sues.

In­stead, the event threat­ens to be over­shad­owed by two lead­ers who are ab­sent, said the Mu­nich daily Sued­deutsche Zeitung, re­fer­ring to Tspi­ras and Putin.

A day af­ter thou­sands protested against the G- 7 in largely peace­ful ral­lies, a hand­ful of pro­test­ers staged a sit- in Sun­day to block the main ac­cess road to the cas­tle, mean­ing jour­nal­ists were trans­ported by he­li­copter to the lo­ca­tion.

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