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G7 ministers reveal 'clear differences' on Middle East

The Group of Seven nations bickered over Middle East issues [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 April, 2019

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Ministers of G7 member nations were unable to reach a consensus on pressing issues in the Middle East as differences in policies were highlighted.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations failed to reach consensus on key Middle East issues on Saturday, as they wrapped up a meeting in France that was shaken by the absence of United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The diplomats in attendance projected a united front while walking side-by-side along a seaside promenade before they released the agreement from their two-day meeting in Dinard.

The agreement included mildly worded joint commitments on issues such as fighting cybercrime, giving women bigger peacemaking roles, and engaging with countries in Africa's Sahel region to combat migrant trafficking.

But what was omitted from the G7's positions said as much as what was included. The differences could set the stage for tensions at an August summit of the leaders of the G7 advanced economies - the United States, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and the UK

A European Union official expressed "regret" the document had what she considered to be several glaring omissions that conflicted with non-negotiable positions of the EU. They included "no reference to a two-state solution" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and "no mention" of the UN Security Council resolution in favour of the Iran nuclear deal, she said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not allowed to speak to the news media, said the language used to described the G7's deep concern over Iran's "continuing support for terrorist organisations and armed militias" was not language EU members tend to use. Four of the G7 nations are in the EU.

The foreign ministers' joint statement itself acknowledged "clear differences" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after "an exchange of views."

The agreement included an initiative to help countries share best practices on encouraging responsible online behaviour.

Also, the group pledged to encourage the creation of funds to help survivors of sexual violence in danger spots, and to encourage Sahel countries to take steps to end trafficking. It also reaffirmed the G7's "commitment to a rules-based international order."

Discord is becoming a theme for the group.

Last June, US President Donald Trump roiled the G7 meeting in Canada by first agreeing to a group statement on trade, then withdrawing support from it and sending a string of negative tweets about the summit and its host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

On Saturday in Dinard, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was missing from the final group photo after attending Friday's session. Combined with Pompeo's absence, Hunt's status raised questions about the G7's relevance.

US officials acknowledged points of discord at the talks hosted by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

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