G7 leaders agree to abandon Sochi summit, will hold June meeting in Brussels
Karolyn Coorsh, CTV News
Published Monday, March 24, 2014 9:51AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 24, 2014 7:08PM EDT
G7 Leaders agreed Monday to hold their own summit in Brussels, abandoning plans for a scheduled G8 summit with Russia in Sochi amid political turmoil in Ukraine.
In a joint statement, Western nations and Japan said it will “suspend” its participation in the G8 until Russia “changes course,” and that they will meet in G7 “format” for a summit in Brussels in June.
The decision comes as G7 leaders held an emergency session in The Hague to discuss what to do about Russia in light of the ongoing crisis in eastern Europe.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has heavily criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea and its aggression toward Ukraine. During a brief visit to Kyiv Saturday, Harper saw firsthand the fallout from the political uprising, and was one of the first leaders to impose sanctions on the Russian government.
In the declaration, the leaders issued a strong message, saying Russia’s actions “will have significant consequences.”
“We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution. We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations. We do not recognize either,” the leaders said.
The leaders also said they remain ready to “intensify actions,” including co-ordinated sectoral sanctions, if Russia continues to “escalate this situation.”
If Russia attempts to move into southeastern Ukraine, as some fear it will, White House officials have said Obama may launch further penalties against Russia’s economy, including its energy industry.
The G7 leaders also expressed support for the government of Ukraine, and for the International Monetary Fund for providing economic support for the beleaguered country.
“We remain united in our commitment to provide strong financial backing to Ukraine, to co-ordinate our technical assistance, and to provide assistance in other areas, including measures to enhance trade and strengthen energy security,” they said in the declaration.
Earlier, Harper said discussions on Russia will have to be made a priority over economic concerns.
“Within the context of Canadian foreign policy, we will do what we can to maximize the commercial opportunities for our firms," Harper told Dutch business representatives. "But, we will not shape our foreign policy to commercial interests.”
Harper and his fellow G7 leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, gathered at the official residence of the Dutch Prime Minister for the emergency meeting.
A Russia-European summit that was scheduled for June 3 in Sochi was previously cancelled.
Earlier on Monday, Russia slapped a travel ban on 13 Canadians, including officials and federal lawmakers, over Canadian sanctions in light of the Ukraine crisis.
With files from The Canadian Press
Here is text of The Hague declaration:
1. We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission met in The Hague to reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
2. 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. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution. We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations. We do not recognize either.
3. Today, we reaffirm that Russia’s actions will have significant consequences. This clear violation of international law is a serious challenge to the rule of law around the world and should be a concern for all nations. In response to Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to demonstrate our determination to respond to these illegal actions, individually and collectively we have imposed a variety of sanctions against Russia and those individuals and entities responsible. We remain ready to intensify actions including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation.
4. We remind Russia of its international obligations, and its responsibilities including those for the world economy. Russia has a clear choice to make. Diplomatic avenues to de-escalate the situation remain open, and we encourage the Russian Government to take them. Russia must respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, begin discussions with the Government of Ukraine, and avail itself of offers of international mediation and monitoring to address any legitimate concerns.
5. The Russian Federation’s support for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine is a step in the right direction. We look forward to the mission’s early deployment, in order to facilitate the dialogue on the ground, reduce tensions and promote normalization of the situation, and we call on all parties to ensure that Special Monitoring Mission members have safe and secure access throughout Ukraine to fulfill their mandate.
6. This Group came together because of shared beliefs and shared responsibilities. Russia’s actions in recent weeks are not consistent with them. Under these circumstances, we will not participate in the planned Sochi Summit. We will suspend our participation in the G-8 until Russia changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion and will meet again in G-7 format at the same time as planned, in June 2014, in Brussels, to discuss the broad agenda we have together. We have also advised our Foreign Ministers not to attend the April meeting in Moscow. In addition, we have decided that G-7 Energy Ministers will meet to discuss ways to strengthen our collective energy security.
7. At the same time, we stand firm in our support for the people of Ukraine who seek to restore unity, democracy, political stability, and economic prosperity to their country. We commend the Ukrainian government’s ambitious reform agenda and will support its implementation as Ukraine seeks to start a new chapter in its history, grounded on a broad-based constitutional reform, free and fair presidential elections in May, promotion of human rights and respect of national minorities.
8. The International Monetary Fund has a central role leading the international effort to support Ukrainian reform, lessening Ukraine's economic vulnerabilities, and better integrating the country as a market economy in the multilateral system. We strongly support the IMF's work with the Ukrainian authorities and urge them to reach a rapid conclusion. IMF support will be critical in unlocking additional assistance from the World Bank, other international financial institutions, the EU, and bilateral sources. We remain united in our commitment to provide strong financial backing to Ukraine, to co-ordinate our technical assistance, and to provide assistance in other areas, including measures to enhance trade and strengthen energy security.