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Obama, G-7 colleagues push Russia-Ukraine talks

Jun. 5, 2014 - 01:36PM   |  
TOPSHOTS-BELGIUM-DIPLOMACY-G7-SUMMIT
From left to right: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. President Obama, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speak June 5 as they participate in a session dedicated to the global economy during the G7 Summit at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium. (Saul Loeb / Getty Images)
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BRUSSELS — President Obama and Group of Seven allies said Thursday that Russia must meet new conditions or face the prospect of new sanctions over its aggression in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin must recognize President-elect Petro Poroshenko as the new leader of Ukraine, stop shipping arms across the Ukraine-Russia border and stop supporting pro-Russian separatists in his neighboring country, G-7 officials said.

Wrapping up a two-day summit, G-7 members — the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada — worked on a Russia plan while urging peace talks between Putin and Poroshenko.

“Russia needs to seize that opportunity,” Obama said after a private meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the end of the two-day G-7 summit.

Obama said the G-7 will help Ukraine and other nations reduce their dependence on Russian energy supplies. The allies further vowed to work together to address climate change, he said.

Cameron plans to discuss the demands on Russia in a meeting with Putin that was moved up a day to Thursday amid a flurry of diplomacy on the sidelines of the G-7.

“The next month will be vital in judging if President Putin has taken these steps,” Cameron said. “And that is what I will urge President Putin to do when I meet him later today.”

Referring to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, as well as violence in southern and eastern Ukraine, Cameron said, “Russia’s actions are completely unacceptable and totally at odds with the values of this group of democracies.”

Obama said that “if Russia’s provocations continue,” then “the G-7 nations are ready to impose additional costs on Russia” in the form of more sanctions.

Putin — who has vowed to protect the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine and elsewhere — said he is ready to talk with Obama. In an interview with French broadcasters, Putin accused the United States of hypocrisy.

“We have almost no military forces abroad,” Putin said. “Yet look: Everywhere in the world, there are American military bases, American troops thousands of kilometers from their borders.”

Once known as the G-8, the group booted Russia from the ranks after Russia annexed the Crimean region away from Ukraine. Members canceled a summit that had been scheduled for Sochi, Russia, and rescheduled the sessions for this week in Brussels.

Obama and his colleagues sat at a round table for the start of Thursday’s G-7 summit, most of them chatting with the amiable familiarity of longtime allies. Cameron talked about how predecessor John Major used to pass notes under the table at summits, a story that amused Obama.

At a photo op before his one-on-one meeting with Cameron, Obama quipped to photographers, “It’s a pretty good picture, isn’t it?”

Obama and G-7 allies will have additional meetings on Russia and Ukraine in the wake of the summit.

After his conference with Cameron in Brussels, Obama flew to Paris for a working dinner with French President Francois Hollande. Putin will also meet Hollande in Paris.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis has dominated Obama’s trip to Europe, which began in Poland on Tuesday as the president made security pledges to allies.

Obama will wrap up the trip Friday with ceremonies devoted to the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France — also the site of more talks about Russia and Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet with Putin on the sidelines of the D-Day ceremonies.

Obama is not scheduled to meet with Putin, although he and his Russian counterpart will be at the D-Day ceremonies.

If they do speak, Obama said, he will echo the same message he has given Putin in phone conversations: “If he continues a strategy of undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine, then we have no choice but to respond.”

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