The G7’s foreign ministers will meet in London for their first personal talks in more than two years on Tuesday, calling for urgent cooperation to address the most pressing global threats.
China, Myanmar, Libya, Syria and Russia are all on the formal agenda as ministers from the Club of Rich Democrats prepare for a leadership meeting in Cornwall, south-west England, next month.
They will also discuss violence in Ethiopia, Iran and North Korea, Somalia, the Sahel and the Western Balkans, as part of what London said were “pressing geopolitical issues that threaten to undermine democracy, freedoms and human rights”.
The British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met his US counterpart Antony Blinken on Monday with both pushing a firm line on the need for a more coherent strategy.
“The UK Presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and show unity at a time when it is vital to address shared challenges and rising threats,” Raab said in a statement.
Blinken hammered home the need for a common position, when he reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the “international rules-based system” to address issues ranging from climate change to post-pandemic recovery.
Ministers meet under strict coronavirus protocols, with stripped-down delegations and social distancing, including face masks and perspex screens between speakers.
The UK, which has seen more than 127,500 deaths in the outbreak, is gradually easing virus restrictions as vaccinations increase and falls, even as other countries such as India and Brazil endure new peaks.
This has led to calls for more coordinated international action, including extensive access to vaccines.
Blinken told a joint press conference with Raab on Monday night: “Most of the challenges we face … not a single one of these challenges can be effectively met by any country acting alone – including the United States, including the United States.
“I think it is stronger than ever since I have been involved in these issues to find ways for countries to cooperate, coordinate, cooperate.”
Very good meeting with @DominicRaab on US-UK shared priorities with Indo-Pacific, NATO, Ukraine, Iran, Burma, Ethiopia and other global issues. An ever closer transatlantic partnership is crucial to meet global challenges and build better together. pic.twitter.com/h510eUHWMB
– Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 3, 2021
‘Behavior and deeds’
G7 ministers – Britain, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – will also meet with European Union counterparts, as well as delegates from India, Australia, South Africa, South Korea and ASEAN President Brunei.
Raab said their presence was a testament to “the growing demand and need for flexible clusters of like-minded countries that share the same values and want to protect the multilateral system”.
The UK, which left the EU last year, looks to the countries of Asia and the Pacific for new trade and investment opportunities, but also as a reflection of the region’s growing strategic importance.
It wants broader and stronger global commitments to tackle climate change, as it prepares to host the UN Climate Change Summit, COP26, in November.
Close allies Britain and the United States have increasingly adapted in foreign policy to geopolitical threats, especially from Russia and China.
The blink leads to Ukraine on Wednesday, where there are Western concerns about Russia’s build-up of forces at the border, Moscow’s treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Belarus.
In North Korea, Blinken said the ball was in Pyongyang’s court if it wanted to engage diplomatically in Washington’s new approach to addressing the hermit nation’s nuclear ambitions.
In China, which has been accused of oppressing its Uyghur minority and cracking down on rights in Hong Kong and Russia, Raab said “the door was open” for better ties.
“But it depends on behavior and deeds,” he said.
In Myanmar, ministers will discuss the coup on February 1 and receive a progress report, in which Raab is expected to call on partners to take tougher action against the military junta, including expanded targeted sanctions.