June 15, 2021

G7 'finds its voice again' with China, Iran and Russia under fire at London meeting

May 05, 2021

COVID scares aside, this meeting has delivered diplomatically.

Its British hosts believe the dire times we live in demand the most potent form of diplomacy, and that has to be face to face.

COVID-19 is raging across the developing world, throwing up new worrying variants; climate change poses an ever increasing threat and the whole idea of a world order dominated by likeminded democratic allies is in jeopardy.

While a maverick anti-multilateralist was in the White House, and under cover of the pandemic, the West's rivals have made hay.

The Russians have grown increasingly menacing and meddlesome. Iran continues to hold innocent people hostage in an egregious form of hostage diplomacy. And China, where the virus was spawned, has only grown stronger in its wake, economically but also ideologically.

China offers a nightmare alternative to the free, open democratic world promoted in the West. One of Orwellian totalitarianism.

And it continues to perpetrate the genocide - or something very close to it - of an entire people and their culture in Xinjiang, just as it has smothered and crushed the same in Tibet.

All that justified the risk, say the British, of convening foreign minsters in person at last for a brisk two days of high-density diplomacy that culminated in a meaty 50-page final communique.

The impression it leaves is of a G7 finding its voice again.

It warns Russia against malign activities and cyber threats and urges Myanmar's military regime to reverse course.

It urges Iran to release dual-national prisoners like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, whose family say is increasingly unwell in jail.

And it also pledges to expand COVID-19 vaccine production

But on China it was perhaps most forthright, expressing concern on its human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, condemning "the targeting of Uighurs, members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, and the existence of a large-scale network of 'political re-education' camps, and reports of forced labour systems and forced sterilisation".

G7 nations say they don't want to hold China down, but to encourage it "as a major power and economy with advanced technological capability, to participate constructively in the rules-based international system".

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News: "I think it's more likely to need to - rather than react in anger - it's more likely to going to need to take a look in the mirror and take into account this growing body of opinion that thinks these basic international rules have got be adhered to."

Beijing will hate that kind of rhetoric and the criticism in the communique, but may have to brace itself for more as the G7 prepares for its summit in Cornwall with what appears to be renewed sense of diplomatic vigour.

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