LIVERPOOL: A new show of western unity against Russia and China was lined up by the UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, as on Sunday she hosted a weekend meeting of foreign ministers from the world’s richest nations.
The Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations’ ministers sought to demonstrate “a show of unity against global aggressors”. The UK is seeking elusive consensus from the wealthy nations’ club in response to what it calls “malign behaviour” by Russia, and over tensions with China and Iran.
“We need to defend ourselves against the growing threats from hostile actors,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said as she opened the meeting of foreign ministers from the UK, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. “And we need to come together strongly to stand up to aggressors who are seeking to limit the bounds of freedom and democracy.”
Read more: A new Cold War?
The G7 top diplomats said time was running out for Iran to agree a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions, and warned Russia of "massive" consequences if it invades Ukraine. On Iran, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said resumed talks in Vienna were the Islamic Republic’s "last chance to come to the negotiating table with a serious resolution".
"There is still time for Iran to come and agree this deal," she told a news conference. The final communique from the talks said Iran "must stop its nuclear escalation and seize the opportunity to conclude a deal, while this is still possible".
Negotiations restarted on Thursday to try to revive the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers, which the United States withdrew from under Donald Trump in 2018. Iran claims it only wants to develop a civilian capability but Western powers say its stockpile of enriched uranium goes well beyond that,and could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.
US President Joe Biden has said he is ready to return to the agreement and Iranian officials maintain they are serious about committing to the talks. But Tehran has been accused of backsliding on progress made earlier this year and playing for time.
Truss's comments are the first time a signatory to the original deal has given an ultimatum for the talks. Britain, which hands over the G7 presidency to Germany next year, portrayed the two-day conference in Liverpool, northwest England, as a chance to stand up to authoritarianism around the world.
As well as Iran, Russia's build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine dominated talks, given fears of a possible invasion of the former Soviet state. The G7 rich democracies said they were concerned by China's "coercive economic policies", in a final statement published on Sunday.
"On China, we discussed a range of issues and challenges, such as the situations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, in the East and South China Seas and the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who chaired the G7 meeting in Liverpool.
"We also expressed our concern about coercive economic policies." While Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps the West guessing over Ukraine, it was the might of Chinese President Xi Jinping that garnered the long-term strategic focus when the diplomats from the Group of Seven richest democracies met this weekend.
The United States and its other G7 allies are searching for a coherent response to Xi's growing assertiveness after China's spectacular economic and military rise over the past 40 years.
Putin was the immediate tactical focus at talks in the English city between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts. There was support for President Joe Biden's attempt to back Ukraine and deter Putin with a clear warning of severe economic sanctions.
"There's a huge amount of convergence about what will unfortunately be necessary if Russia makes that very bad choice," a senior US State Department official said.
The re-emergence of China as a leading global power is considered to be one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.
Speaking after meetings with her counterparts from G7 countries in Liverpool, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Iran had resumed the talks with a position that set the negotiations back six months.
Truss said there was "very much a united voice... that there will be massive consequences for Russia in the case of an incursion into Ukraine". In the final communique, ministers unanimously backed Ukraine´s territorial integrity and sovereignty, praising President Volodymyr Zelensky for Kiev's "posture of restraint".
All options, including wide-ranging political and economic sanctions, are on the table if Russia ignores a diplomatic solution, officials indicated. A senior US State Department official on Saturday said "a large number of democratic countries" were ready to join the G7 nations of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States in taking action.
Biden earlier this week held a virtual summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to voice Western concerns. He is sending his top diplomat for Europe and Eurasian affairs to Kiev and Moscow next week for follow-up talks with senior officials.
Russia says the military build-up is a defensive measure against Ukraine moving closer to NATO. Pope Francis also called for the situation to be "resolved through serious international dialogue and not with weapons", following the Angelus prayer at St Peter´s Square.
From Liverpool, Antony Blinken flies on to southeast Asia as part of Washington's push for "peace, security and prosperity" in the Indo-Pacific region. Britain's G7 presidency this year has been dominated by responding to Beijing's alleged widespread domestic rights abuses, as well as creeping authoritarianism in its former colony, Hong Kong.
Ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) took part in talks with the G7 for the first time, with concerns high about security in the South China Sea. Truss said she and her counterparts were concerned about China's "coercive economic policies" and there was a need to counter them with their own initiatives as an alternative.
"What we want to do is build the investment reach, the economic trade reach of like-minded freedom-loving democracies," she added. "That is why we're stepping up our investment into low and middle-income countries."
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