G7 countries ‘firmly condemn’ Myanmar military attacks on protesters


LONDON: Group of Seven (G7) countries said on Tuesday (Feb 23) they “firmly condemn” violence committed by Myanmar’s security forces against protesters and urged them to “exercise utmost restraint and respect human rights and international law”.

The bloc of wealthy nations – comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States as well as the European Union’s High Representative – reiterated their opposition to the Feb 1 coup and the increasingly heavy-handed response to demonstrations against it.

“Use of live ammunition against unarmed people is unacceptable. Anyone responding to peaceful protests with violence must be held to account,” G7 foreign ministers said in a statement.

READ: EU agrees to sanctions on Myanmar coup, Russia crackdown

READ: US places sanctions on two Myanmar generals over coup

“We condemn the intimidation and oppression of those opposing the coup. We raise our concern at the crackdown on freedom of expression, including through the Internet blackout and draconian changes to the law that repress free speech.”

The G7 called for an end to the “systematic targeting” of protesters, doctors, civil society and journalists and for the military junta to revoke its declared state of emergency.

It also urged Myanmar’s military to allow full humanitarian access to support the most vulnerable.

“We remain united in condemning the coup in Myanmar. We call again for the immediate and unconditional release of those detained arbitrarily, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and continue to stand with the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy and freedom,” the statement said.

READ: Myanmar people’s wishes must be respected – Indonesian foreign minister

READ: Indonesia dismisses report on action plan to help Myanmar military uphold promise of fresh polls

Myanmar’s military leaders are facing renewed pressure at home and abroad after gradually ratcheting up their use of force against a massive and largely peaceful civil disobedience campaign against their coup.

As the US, EU and UK tighten sanctions, demonstrations against the junta’s rule have continued to grow – alongside a violent response in return.

Three anti-coup protesters have been killed in the demonstrations so far, while a man patrolling his Yangon neighbourhood against night arrests was also shot dead at the weekend.



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All G7 leaders support Japan’s plan to hold Olympics this summer, says PM Suga


TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Saturday (Feb 20) the Group of Seven leaders gave unanimous support for his bid to hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer, as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus and to inoculate its citizens swiftly.

“I told the meeting that I want to realise a safe and secure Olympics as testimony that human beings will have won the battle with the coronavirus,” Suga told reporters following a virtual G7 summit meeting held on Friday.

“I was able to gain support from all the leaders. It was so encouraging.”

READ: Most Japan firms oppose holding Tokyo Olympics as planned: Reuters poll

The Tokyo Olympics were originally scheduled for 2020, but were postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan kicked off its inoculation drive against the virus on Wednesday, becoming the last member of G7 countries to do so.

READ: Former Olympic athlete Hashimoto chosen as head of Tokyo 2020 organising committee

More than half of Japanese firms believe the Jul 23 to Aug 8 Games should be cancelled or postponed again, a survey by think tank Tokyo Shoko Research showed this week, underscoring doubts over the viability of the premier sporting event. 



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G7 leaders commit $7.5 billion to vaccine rollout in poor countries



Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) economic powers, who control a little under half of the world’s economy, on Friday agreed to “intensify cooperation” in response to the coronavirus pandemic and increase funding commitments for the rollout of vaccines in the world’s poorest countries to $7.5 billion.

Days after the UN voiced alarm over gaping inequities in the initial rollout of vaccines between rich and poor countries, G7 leaders holding a virtual meeting on Friday agreed to increase financial commitments to global vaccination efforts. 

“Today, with increased financial commitments of over $4 billion to ACT-A and COVAX, collective G7 support totals $7.5 billion,” the elite club comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US said in a joint statement.

But many leaders, under pressure over their vaccination campaigns at home, were unwilling to say exactly how much vaccine they were willing to share with the developing world, or when.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the G-7 leaders held a virtual meeting that fair distribution of vaccines was “an elementary question of fairness”.

But she added, “No vaccination appointment in Germany is going to be endangered.”

French President Emmanuel Macron gave a firmer target, saying Europe and the US should allocate up to five percent of their current Covid-19 vaccine supplies to the poorest countries “very fast”.

After their first meeting of the year, held remotely due to the pandemic, G7 leaders said they would accelerate global vaccine development and deployment” and support “affordable and equitable access to vaccines” and treatments for Covid-19. 

Macron called on Western nations to supply 13 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to African governments “as soon as possible”.

“The African continent has 6.5 million health workers. It requires 13 million doses to protect them and allow their health systems to withstand” the coronavirus crisis, he told the Munich Security Conference by video from Paris.

He said this would represent just 0.43 percent of the West’s vaccine stocks, but be a boon to African countries struggling to protect their citizens.

“If we, Europeans and Americans, can deliver these 13 million doses as soon as possible, it’s hugely worth it, and it’s worth it for our credibility,” Macron said.

Russia, China will benefit if US, Europe does not deliver

He warned that if rich countries promise doses that do not arrive for another six to 12 months, “our African friends will be pressured by their populations, and rightly so, to buy doses from the Chinese, the Russians or directly from laboratories.”

“And the power of the West, of Europeans and Americans, will be only a concept, and not a reality,” he said.

The vaccine donations, he added, would also be tangible proof of a trans-Atlantic push to foster a “useful” globalisation reflecting “a common will to advance and share the same values”.

“If we want our globalisation to succeed … we must address the problem of inequalities in our societies, with our neighbours,” Macron said. 

Jobs and growth

Friday’s summit saw debut appearances by US President Joe Biden and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, with all leaders pledging renewed commitment to cooperation and consulation.

The leaders called for stronger defences against a future pandemic, including exploring a global health treaty, but the focus was on a green recovery – on the same day that the US rejoined the Paris climate agreement.

“Jobs and growth is what we’re going to need after this pandemic,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the opening of the meeting.

The official G7 communiques said members would champion open economies, “data free flow with trust” and work on “a modernised, freer and fairer rules-based multilateral trading system”.

After Facebook cut news feeds in Australia, Macron raised the role social media platforms should have in preserving freedom of speech and how to regulate them, a French official said on Friday.

Merkel’s muting problem

Even at the virtual top table of world politics, the “mute curse”, which has stilted video calls for millions of businesses and families over the past months of lockdown, struck.

As Johnson began the meeting, a German voice suddenly interrupted him.

“Can you hear us Angela,” Johnson quipped to the German leader, chuckling. “I think you need to mute.”

Johnson also claimed that Biden had “nicked” – British slang for stolen – his slogan “build back better”, though Johnson said that he himself had probably stolen it from somewhere else.

Once the mute problems were over, the leaders got down to business again. 

“Covid-19 shows that the world needs stronger defences against future risks to global health security,” the G7 said. “We will continue to support our economies to protect jobs and support a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive recovery.”

Though Biden has cast China as the “most serious competitor” of the United States, China was mentioned only once in the communiques.

Johnson said the G7 – as “like-minded liberal free-trading democracies” – stood together on issues such as condemnation of the coup in Myanmar and the detention of Alexei Navalny in Russia.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

 

 



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Ahead of G7, Macron urges US and Europe to allocate vaccines to poor nations



Issued on:

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Thursday for the US and European nations to allocate up to 5% of current vaccine supplies to developing countries, one day before Friday’s Group of Seven meeting of world leaders, expected to deal mainly with the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we allow to take root the idea that hundreds of millions of vaccines are made in rich countries and that we don’t start in poor countries, that idea is unsustainable,” Macron said in an interview with the Financial Times, suggesting that the Americans and Europeans adopt the kind of vaccine diplomacy that China and Russia have begun deploying.

The G7 summit in Cornwall, UK, will be Joe Biden’s first big presidential moment on the global stage, where he is expected to announce that the US will soon begin releasing $4 billion for an international effort to bolster the purchase and distribution of coronavirus vaccines to poor nations, White House officials said.

Biden will also encourage G7 partners to make good on their pledges to COVAX, an initiative by the World Health Organization to improve access to vaccines, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview Biden’s announcement.

Former President Donald Trump declined to participate in the COVAX initiative because of its ties to WHO, the Geneva-based agency that Trump accused of covering up China’s missteps in handling the virus at the start of the public health crisis. Trump pulled the US out of the WHO,  but Biden moved quickly after his inauguration last month to rejoin and confirmed that the US would contribute to COVAX.

The $4 billion in US funding was approved by Congress in December and will be distributed through 2022.

The US is committed to working through COVAX to ensure “equitable distribution of vaccines and funding globally”, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday.

It remains to be seen how G7 allies will take Biden’s calls for greater international cooperation on vaccine distribution given that the US refused to take part in the initiative under Trump and that there are growing calls for the Biden administration to distribute some US-manufactured vaccine supplies overseas.

‘Wildly uneven and unfair’

And earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair”  distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, noting 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations.

Last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also raised with Biden the prospect of Canada getting the vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, according to a senior Canadian government official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.

Canada has been getting all its Pfizer doses from a company facility in Puurs, Belgium, and has experienced disruptions in supply.

But Biden, who announced last week that the US would have enough supply of the vaccine by the end of the summer to inoculate 300 million people, remains focused for now on making sure every American is inoculated, administration officials say.

The president, in his first national security memorandum last month, called for his administration to develop a framework to donate surplus vaccines once there is a sufficient supply in the US.

The COVAX program has already missed its own goal of beginning coronavirus vaccinations in poor countries at the same time that shots were rolled out in rich countries. WHO says COVAX needs $5 billion in 2021.

Guterres said Wednesday that 130 countries have not received a single dose of the vaccine and declared that “at this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community”.

The Group of Seven industrialized nations are the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, France, Canada and Italy. Friday’s meeting of the G7, the first of Biden’s presidency, is being held virtually.

In addition to discussing vaccine distribution, Biden also plans to use the meeting to discuss G7 countries’ collective competitiveness and economic challenges posed by China, according to the White House.

Biden is also scheduled to deliver a virtual address to the Munich Security Conference on Friday before traveling to Michigan to visit Pfizer’s vaccine manufacturing facility.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)  



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UK Invites PM Modi to Attend G7, Boris Johnson Likely to Visit India ‘Ahead Of Summit’


The United Kingdom has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the G7 summit to be held in the country’s Cornwall region in June.

The G7, which includes the world’s seven leading democratic economies — UK, Germany, Canada, France, Japan, Italy, the USA — and the European Union, will discuss issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, technological changes, scientific discoveries and open trade.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had cancelled his India visit for this year’s Republic Day event due to the detection of mutant virus strain in his country, is likely to visit the country “ahead of the G7”, a press statement read.

Besides India, Australia and South Korea have also been invited as guest countries to the summit.

“UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use the first in-person G7 summit in almost two years to ask leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener and more prosperous,” the press statement said.

The invitation to India, Australia and South Korea is also “testament to the UK’s commitment to ensuring multilateral institutions better reflect today’s world”, it said.

In the statement, Johnson said that the G7 has long been the catalyst for decisive international action “to tackle the greatest challenges we face”.

“From cancelling developing world debt to our universal condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the world has looked to the G7 to apply our shared values and diplomatic might to create a more open and prosperous planet,” he said.

“Coronavirus is doubtless the most destructive force we have seen for generations and the greatest test of the modern world order we have experienced. It is only right that we approach the challenge of building back better by uniting with a spirit of openness to create a better future,” he added.

Johnson had accepted Modi’s invitation to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade but later cancelled his visit after announcing a country-wide shutdown over the mutant virus.



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