Zelenskyy courts ‘Global South’ at G7 summit

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Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks with India’s Narendra Modi on Saturday (20 May) and was due to meet other “Global South” leaders at a Group of Seven (G7) summit aimed at broadening support for his country in its war against Russia.

The three-day G7 meeting in the Japanese city of Hiroshima has already agreed new sanctions on Russia and measures to stand up to what it called China’s economic coercion, drawing the ire of Moscow and a complaint to the summit host Japan from Beijing.

Flown in from an Arab League summit on a French government jet, Zelenskyy, wearing his customary olive green fatigues, was warmly greeted by G7 leaders and held talks with Modi as part of a series of meetings with non-aligned countries in attendance.

Zelenskyy said on the Telegram message app that the two discussed Ukraine’s needs concerning mobile hospitals and the removal of land mines and that he had invited India to join Ukraine’s peace formula.

Modi’s Twitter account posted a photo of the two shaking hands, noting he had told Zelenskyy of India’s readiness to continue humanitarian help for the people of Ukraine and its backing for “dialogue and diplomacy” to seek peace.

Met President @ZelenskyyUa in Hiroshima. Conveyed our clear support for dialogue and diplomacy to find a way forward. We will continue extending humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/1srbIIJUB3

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 20, 2023

Modi, whose country forms the so-called BRIC group alongside Brazil and China, has not distanced itself from Russia. Its oil deals with Russia are seen as undermining Western sanctions by allowing Russia to continue benefiting from energy revenues.

India’s fuel purchases from Russia were not discussed in Saturday’s meeting, India’s foreign secretary, Vinay Kwatra, told reporters. New Delhi says it is defending its own interests in buying Russian oil.

A French presidential source told reporters Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would also meet Zelenskyy in Hiroshima.

European officials said it was crucial that Zelenskyy came in person first to Friday’s Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia and now to the Hiroshima gathering so that he could outline Ukraine’s view of how the war with Russia can be ended.

“I think this is a unique opportunity to (have) exchanges with a lot of countries from the south and express your situation, express a message and share a view,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.

“I do believe it can be a game-changer.”

G7 nations – the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada – are grappling with the challenges posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and tensions with China, including over Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.

On Friday, the leaders announced new measures aimed at hitting the Russian economy and promised further military support, including backing by US President Joe Biden for Ukrainian pilots to be trained to fly F-16 fighter jets.

Worried by the outsized role China now plays in supply chains for everything from semiconductors to critical minerals, the G7 issued a communique that set out a common strategy towards future dealings with the world’s second-largest economy.

They warned that countries attempting to use trade as a weapon would face “consequences”, in a signal to Beijing over practices Washington says amount to economic bullying.

“We are not decoupling or turning inwards. At the same time, we recognise that economic resilience requires de-risking and diversifying,” they said. “A growing China that plays by international rules would be of global interest.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that the decisions taken by the G7 showed they were bent on what he called the “double containment” of Russia and China.

“The task was set loudly and openly – to defeat Russia on the battlefield, but not to stop there, but to eliminate it as a geopolitical competitor,” Lavrov said.

A Chinese foreign ministry statement accused the G7 of interfering in its internal affairs, including Taiwan. It said it had lodged stern representations with summit host Japan.

“It is important to remind the G7 that the days when a few Western countries colluded to manipulate the world are over,” China’s embassy in Japan said in a statement later in the day.

The summit is intended to win consensus among the world’s rich democracies on a range of issues, political and economic.

The G7 acknowledged differences on how to manage the rapid development of artificial intelligence technology, saying that “the common vision and goal of trustworthy AI may vary” but calling for consensus on global technical standards.

While they reaffirmed existing net-zero emissions targets in the fight against climate change, they said in their communique that investment in the gas sector could be temporarily appropriate as countries phase out reliance on Russian energy.

A month ago, a communique after a previous G7 meeting noted that fossil fuel subsidies were “inconsistent” with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Faced with the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels, what leaders have brought to the table represents an endorsement of new fossil gas,” Tracy Carty, Global Climate Politics Expert at Greenpeace International, said in a statement

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