World / Europe

G7 powers meet without Russia

By Reuters in Brussels (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-05 07:01

Moscow expelled from G8 talks after annexing Crimean region

The world's leading industrialized nations met without Russia for the first time in 17 years on Wednesday, leaving Russian President Vladimir Putin out of the talks in retaliation for Russia's stance on the Ukraine crisis and its annexation of Crimea.

The two-day Group of Seven summit, taking place in Brussels rather than the previously planned Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, will cover foreign policy, economics, trade and energy security.

The latter is an issue of particularly high sensitivity to Europe after months of tension with Moscow, which supplies nearly a third of Europe's oil and gas.

While it is the first time Russia will not be at the table since joining the club in 1997, Putin will still hold one-on-one talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande in France this week, on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The decision to drop Russia from the group was taken by its other members - the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Canada, Japan and Italy - in March, after Moscow annexed Crimea during the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.

Since then, the European Union and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on senior Russian and Crimean officials and threatened to apply much harder-hitting economic and trade measures if they rule that Moscow is continuing to destabilize eastern Ukraine.

Potential rehabilitation

Russia retains substantial forces on Ukraine's eastern border, and militia forces are operating in many major eastern towns. But presidential elections took place relatively peacefully across the rest of Ukraine last month, which the West took as a signal of Moscow's readiness not to escalate the crisis.

That sense of increased cooperation has raised questions about whether the EU, with its critical trade and energy ties with Russia, could soon seek ways of drawing Moscow back into the fold, such as allowing it to rejoin the G8.

"It's a bit early at this stage, but I wouldn't rule out the heads of state discussing how they see the future of the G7 or the G8," said one European official.

The Wednesday-Thursday summit began with a dinner to discuss foreign policy, including Russia and EU assistance to Ukraine, as well as Syria, Afghanistan, Mali, the Central African Republic and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, officials said.

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