Reuters: Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations gather in Germany on Wednesday to discuss the nuclear standoff with Iran, the unresolved conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region and other pressing international issues. By Louis Charbonneau
BERLIN (Reuters) – Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations gather in Germany on Wednesday to discuss the nuclear standoff with Iran, the unresolved conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region and other pressing international issues.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hosting the year’s G8 summit in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm next week and the foreign ministers will work on building a consensus on key international issues before their leaders meet.
G8 diplomats say no decisions are expected at the meeting, which takes place in the eastern city of Potsdam near Berlin.
Diplomats said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is hoping her counterparts from Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Japan and Canada will agree that the elite club of industrialised nations should put pressure on Iran at next week’s summit to suspend its nuclear enrichment programme.
Russia and several other G8 members would prefer to wait until after Thursday’s meeting in Madrid between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani before finalising any statements.
“We can then assess whether to simply continue and move up, tighten the sanctions that are already there or whether there are new categories that need to be considered,” Rice said.
“There’s a feeling that we should wait and see what happens in this Solana meeting before deciding on any language about Iran,” said a G8 diplomat on condition of anonymity.
“But if Iran continues to defy U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for a suspension of enrichment the G8 will probably want to declare its support for further measures, which means more sanctions,” he added.
Sudan is another topic on the agenda. The United States and Britain are interested in expanding U.N. sanctions against Sudan due to the violence in its Darfur region, but Russia is wary such action would do little to calm the situation.
On Darfur, Rice said she would discuss with G8 ministers what action could be taken at the U.N. Security Council to put pressure on Sudan’s government following the U.S. announcement of new unilateral sanctions on Sudan.
Hundreds of police will be in Potsdam to protect the delegations in response to plans by a German anti-globalization group to hold anti-G8 demonstrations.
The foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan will hold talks on the sidelines aimed at finding ways to cooperate on sealing the long and porous border between the two neighbours.
“The G8 wants to support cooperation these two countries, above all in securing borders, resolving the question of refugees and building up the border regions,” G8 president Germany said in a statement about the Potsdam meeting.
Afghanistan and the United States have accused Pakistan of not doing enough to halt the flow of Taliban fighters into Afghan territory, where they launch attacks on NATO-led forces.
Pakistan says it is doing its best but needs help moving refugees out of border zones and into Afghan interior regions.
Another issue is the future of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority, which is impatient for independence after eight years of United Nations stewardship. Kosovo has the backing of the EU and the United States but Russia and Serbia oppose independence.
Because of the deadlock, the Western sponsors of the resolution have temporarily put the resolution on ice and are not expected to return to it until after the G8 summit.
After the G8 meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Solana and Rice head back to Berlin for a meeting of the Middle East “Quartet” on the increasingly tense relations between Israel and the Palestinians.