The latest Group of Seven meetings have begun with a focus on Russia’s actions in Ukraine, an issue Canada’s foreign minister knows well.
Chrystia Freeland, a lawmaker of Ukrainian descent who is banned from Russia, kicked off the meeting of foreign ministers by hosting them for brunch -- waffles, eggs, a cake, served by her children in her Toronto home -- along with Ukraine’s foreign minister. Freeland, who speaks Ukrainian, is an avowed critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The issue was one of several being discussed by counterparts including the UK’s Boris Johnson, Germany’s Heiko Maas and Japan’s Taro Kono. The meetings are being held with a notable exception -- incoming US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has not yet been confirmed, so the US was represented by Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan.
“We’ve had excellent conversations on Russia, on Ukraine, we’ve spoken somewhat about China,” Freeland said in brief remarks when reporters were brought into the room. “And we are now about to dive into conversations about Syria, North Korea, Myanmar, Venezuela, among other issues.”
The meeting came as US President Donald Trump tempered optimism on the situation in North Korea, saying on Twitter that “only time will tell.” Sullivan met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on Saturday in Toronto, and “reaffirmed the US support for the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” according to a statement form the US State Department.
The G-7 ministers agreed they should never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, Toshihide Ando, deputy press secretary for Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a press briefing Monday morning in Toronto.
“We are united as an international community that we need to have concrete actions on the part of North Korea for the denuclearization, more specifically dismantlement” of biological and chemical weapons, other weapons of mass destruction and its missile program, he said.
On Ukraine, the ministers “reaffirmed the importance of full implementation of the Minsk agreement” and, on Syria, Kono “stressed that the political solution through the Geneva process is the only option.” The ministers “noted that China has capacity to contribute to the international community,” he added.
On Sunday, Freeland also held a meeting with female foreign ministers from non-G7 countries -- TV cameras captured her riding her bicycle there from the brunch -- and announced Canada would host the world’s female foreign ministers for a conference in September.
Sullivan and Freeland are scheduled to speak publicly Monday. The G-7 meeting runs until Tuesday and will also include security ministers. The G-7 leaders’ summit is scheduled to be held in June in Quebec.