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G7 Biarritz summit results

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Macron’s G7 descends into summit of spin



BIARRITZ, France — It’s the seaside summit of seven truths.

Gathered for their annual pow-wow in the French coastal city of Biarritz this weekend, leaders of the G7 club of rich democracies agreed that Russia should not be invited back into the fold. Or maybe they didn’t.

The leaders also decided that their host, French President Emmanuel Macron, would issue a joint statement to Iran on their behalf and pursue discussions to de-escalate tensions. Or actually, they didn’t. U.S. President Donald Trump told perplexed reporters that each G7 country would pursue its own dialogue with Tehran.

And as the political titans of the industrialized world chit-chatted about the fragile global economy, amid the breeze blowing in off the Bay of Biscay, apparently the prospects for a deal on Brexit somehow magically improved. Or perhaps that was just a bit of wishful thinking — if not outright distortion — by new U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. EU officials said after a meeting between Johnson and European Council President Donald Tusk that absolutely nothing had changed.

Welcome to big-league global diplomacy in 2019 — where everything is at stake and yet nothing is certain and no one can be trusted, at least not without extensive corroboration. And that’s largely down to Trump and Macron.

Macron, the ambitious first-term president who not so long ago was a staffer helping prepare the G7 summit and draft the final communiqué, thought he had hit upon a brilliant strategy to prevent Trump from upending the leaders’ written conclusions — by simply declaring in advance that there wouldn’t be any this year.

Without a communiqué, there would be no way for Trump to sign on to a statement and then torpedo it minutes later, as he did after last year’s G7 leaders’ summit in Quebec, Canada. But Macron quickly discovered that no communiqué also means no carefully negotiated written record of what leaders have actually agreed, no solid commitment to any particular course of action. Nothing to prove that, in fact, the leaders of the free world are still able to reach consensus on how to manage tough problems.

That meant each leader was free to present their version of what had been agreed, without anything in black and white to contradict them. In fact, there were sometimes even more versions of the truth than leaders at the G7 — as some changed their stories as the day wore on.

The problem was immediately apparent on Sunday after the French government told reporters that the leaders — of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union — had agreed during dinner at a lighthouse on Saturday that it is far too soon for Russia to be invited to rejoin their exclusive club. According to the Elysée Palace, the leaders agreed that Russia has not taken sufficient steps to end its military meddling in eastern Ukraine.

Johnson, in particular, spoke out forcefully, reminding his colleagues of the attempted murder, in Salisbury, England, of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal — an attack using a chemical weapon that the West has blamed on the Kremlin. Asked about the leaders’ discussion, British officials confirmed the French view.

But Trump, when asked if he supported the stance of keeping Russia out, said no such decision had been taken. And as the host of next year’s G7 summit in the United States, it will be largely up to Trump to decide who is invited to attend (even if he cannot fully restore Russia’s membership rights).

«Clearly there was no consensus whatsoever, not even on the overall objective,» said an EU official briefed on the discussion. Trump reiterated his desire to bring the Russians back into the club. «There was very strong opposition to this idea from the Europeans, including President Tusk.»

Consensus conundrum

Such disagreements are all the more thorny in the G7 because there is no mechanism to force a decision. «The way the G7 functions is by unanimity,» the EU official said. «You don’t have votes in the G7. You need to have consensus.»

Asked if Putin would be a guest at next year’s summit, Trump played coy. «I don’t know. It’s certainly possible,» Trump teased, adding that he had heard from «a number of people who would like to see Russia» readmitted. But he declined to name specific leaders. «I don’t think it’s necessary,» Trump said.

Macron said the dinner conversation was exactly what he wanted — a forum where the decision-makers could freely and directly engage on substantive topics.  «We had a conversation that was very useful, in the spirit of what the G7 should be, an informal discussion, that is free and intense,» he told reporters.

But free and intense hardly assures that the decision-makers take decisions or make concrete progress.

On Iran, Trump similarly contradicted Macron’s own summary of what leaders had agreed. The French president said he was authorized by fellow leaders to issue a statement to Iran and to pursue discussions aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and at reducing the tensions that have flared since Trump unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“We’ll do our own outreach … but we can’t stop others from their outreach,” Trump said. “If they want to talk, they can talk.”

But the Trump administration also engaged in some overreaching of its own, with American officials in Biarritz claiming that the other leaders all agreed Trump’s policy of «maximum pressure» against Iran is working and that they support it.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Europeans remain firmly committed to the Iran nuclear deal and have been scrambling for ways to save it.

Macron tried to walk a tightrope, saying Trump’s renewed sanctions had served a purpose, though the Europeans have always insisted U.S. withdrawal from the deal was a mistake. «Had the Europeans not been there to stay in the JCPOA, Iran would have left it so it was useful that some remain in it,» Macron told reporters. «Had there not been a sanctions policy and pressure, there might be less Iranian will to move on other issues.»

It’s still not clear that Tehran or Washington have any will to move on anything at this point.

That the G7 powers this year were acting more in their own individual interests than collectively was further illustrated on Sunday afternoon, as Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe upstaged the other participants by announcing a landmark trade deal; and France unexpectedly announced the arrival of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for a meeting with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

French officials said they had given the Americans a 24-hour heads-up, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters she left dinner Saturday with no idea Zarif had been invited to Biarritz.

French and Iranian officials quickly tamped down speculation that Zarif might meet with Trump — a potentially remarkable step given the deep enmity between Iran and the U.S.

But merely bringing the Iranian foreign minister to the same city as Trump and other leaders demonstrated how intensely Macron is hoping to foster dialogue that could bring Tehran back into compliance with the nuclear deal, and to ease fears of a potential war.

Trump gives a stunning display of incoherence at the G-7

Editorial (Washington Post) August 26 at 5:45 PM

ON FRIDAY, President Trump called President Xi Jinping of China an “enemy,” said “we don’t need China” and told U.S. companies they were “hereby ordered” to end their operations there. Over the next 72 hours, he cited a 1977 emergency powers law to back up his threat to end U.S. economic relations with Beijing; announced he did not intend to invoke the law; and, on Monday, declared Mr. Xi to be “a great leader” and “a brilliant man” with whom his administration would probably soon strike a trade deal. It was, all in all, a stunning display of incoherence — even by Mr. Trump’s standards — that encapsulated his performance at the Group of Seven summit.

Mr. Trump’s conflicting statements on China were far from the only puzzlements of his stay in Biarritz, France. He repeatedly touted what he said was a trade deal with Japan, only to be contradicted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese foreign ministry, which said the negotiations were at a preliminary stage. He said there was “tremendous unity” in his talks with the other six leaders, though officials said the U.S. delegation blocked consensus on trade and other issues. Mr. Trump skipped a meeting on climate change, and his pitch to restore Russia to the group was flatly rejected by Germany and Britain, among others.

French President Emmanuel Macron made a valiant effort to use the summit to jump-start negotiations between the United States and Iran, even inviting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Biarritz. Mr. Trump responded with more confusion: After allowing that Mr. Macron’s suggestion of a summit between him and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani within weeks was possible, he went on to cite conditions for a deal different — and less stringent — from those previously outlined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Trump lambasted President Barack Obama for striking a deal that granted Iran economic concessions, then suggested that he would support new loans for Tehran if talks got underway.

Mr. Rouhani suggested in a speech Monday that he was open to negotiations, so perhaps something will come from Mr. Macron’s initiative. But there was no way to judge from Mr. Trump’s remarks whether he was seriously contemplating a change of tack on Iran — just as it was anyone’s guess whether he had second thoughts about the trade war he started with China, as he suggested Sunday, or merely wished he had raised tariffs even higher, as his staff later said.

The one subject on which Mr. Trump’s intentions appeared unambiguous was his plan to steer the next G-7 summit, which the United States is due to host, to his own Doral golf resort near Miami — thereby injecting a huge stimulus into what has been a struggling business. When asked whether he was trying to use the presidency to enrich himself, Mr. Trump responded with the ludicrous claim that the presidency had cost him $3 billion to $5 billion. His scheme cries out for congressional intervention; if the emoluments clause of the Constitution means anything, it must forbid such blatant self-dealing.


Max Boot: Is Trump a liar or a fantasist? Neither option is good.

Jennifer Rubin: Stop the craziness

Paul Waldman: Trump’s presser confirms it: He has no idea why he’s losing the trade war

Greg Sargent: As Trump zigzags wildly at G-7, one ugly truth remains constant

Dana Milbank: Let’s ‘gut check’ all of Trump’s vulgar, unpresidential statements

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