London (dpa) – The foreign ministers of the G7 countries want to chart their course with regard to China and Russia in London today.
“We have a lot to do there, we have left it behind for far too long,” said Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) Monday evening at the start of the meeting in the British capital. Other topics are the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Myanmar and Afghanistan. In the margins of the deliberations, Maas will have a one-on-one meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
It is the first face-to-face meeting in two years of the foreign ministers of seven leading western industrialized countries. In addition to hosts Great Britain and Germany, the group includes the US, France, Italy, Canada and Japan. South Korea, Australia, India and South Africa have also been invited to the London talks. The British Presidency wants to make the G7 even more of a central forum for the great democracies.
Maas welcomed this approach. “More and more authoritarian states or authoritarian state leaders are trying to contrast their model with that of the liberal democracies,” he said. That is why it is good to define common values and develop common strategies within the G7. He cited free trade as an example. “We, the G7, are the free world and we want free trade instead of gag deals as we know others.”
The meeting in London will prepare the G7 Summit of Heads of State or Government in Cornwall from 11-13 June. It will be the first major summit with the new US president Joe Biden. During the tenure of his predecessor Donald Trump, the G7 had lost a lot of importance. Trump had little interest in the form of the conversation and even canceled the closing statement afterwards.
“There was actually no G7 anymore because the United States had already withdrawn,” Maas said at the time. “It’s different now.”
The meeting of foreign ministers in London started with a dinner on Monday evening. Six working sessions and a joint dinner with the foreign ministers of the host countries are scheduled for Tuesday. In between there is still room for one-on-one conversations. Maas has agreed with his Japanese colleague Toshimitsu Motegi and the American Secretary of State Blinken.
According to Maas, the latter meeting will include the withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan. The US and Germany are the two largest troop suppliers there. The escalation of the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and government forces in Eastern Ukraine is also on the agenda of this afternoon’s talks. Blinken plans to visit Ukraine after the G7 meeting.
The G7 conference takes place under strict corona conditions. Everyone present should be tested for the virus daily. The conference will last until Wednesday and should then end with a joint final statement.