G7 leaders put G8 on hold 'until Russia changes course'
Will hold parallel G7 summit in Brussels rather than G8 summit in Sochi
Leaders of the world's seven most industrialized nations are reaffirming their support for Ukraine's territorial integrity by suspending their own participation in the G8 until Russia changes course, effectively killing the Group of Eight.
G7 leaders jointly issued The Hague Declaration on Monday, in which they have agreed to hold their own summit in Brussels in June instead of attending the G8 summit with Russia in Sochi. That decision holds until "the environment comes back to where the G8 is able to have a meaningful discussion."
The group is also advising its foreign ministers to not attend the April meeting in Moscow.
"This group came together because of shared beliefs and shared responsibilities. Russia’s actions in recent weeks are not consistent with them," the declaration reads.
- Read The Hague Declaration here
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The G7 — which includes the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, as well as the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission — says it's also ready "to intensify actions including co-ordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation."
Amid concern that sanctions on Russia might backfire on the West, especially as the country basically controls Europe's natural gas supply, G7 leaders said they'll have their energy ministers "meet to discuss ways to strengthen our collective energy security."
The declaration also repeats the G7's ongoing refusal to recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea, as well as the "illegal" referendum which caused it.
"International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force. To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built," it reads.
The Hague Declaration comes after a hastily arranged G7 meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Safety Summit, in which Russia was conspicuously excluded.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had pressed the G7 to expel Russia from the G8 and urged his European colleagues to take a tougher stand against Moscow in response to its actions in Crimea.
"The reaction is not going to be brief. This is going to be an ongoing pressure to indicate that a large part of the world community is simply never going to accept this because it is a precedent that is just too dangerous for global peace and security," he said to reporters following the gathering.
Russia still member of G20
Russia, now the sole remaining member of the G8, was rather unperturbed even when faced with the prospect of expulsion from the group of elite countries.
Prior to the G7 gathering, Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that he didn't believe it would be a big problem if the G8 doesn't meet.
Harper, however, isn't convinced and said that Russia's increasing diplomatic isolation isn't trivial.
"A regime does not spend $50 billion in the Olympics if it does not care about its international reputation," he said.
There may be truth to that sentiment, seeing as Russia hasn't yet broken relations with a key cohort of nations.
Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reported foreign ministers from the BRICS group of nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — held their own side summit in The Hague as G7 leaders sat down to talk.
Quoting the Russian foreign ministry, Itar-Tass said the BRICS foreign ministers discussed the situation in Ukraine, the crisis in Syria and conflicts in the African continent, saying the meeting "was held in an atmosphere of friendship and trust."
Though Russia's indefinite exclusion is intended to send a strong message, it's unclear what sort of impact that move will have, especially as Russia retains membership in the G20 — an arguably more powerful forum on global issues, considering the combined economies of the member countries make up about 85 per cent of the world's gross domestic product.
Lavrov also said he met with his Ukrainian counterpart for the first time to discuss the Ukrainian crisis.