Anthony Blinken: G7 urges political solution to Syrian conflict

G7 ministers met in London on Tuesday to discuss 'shared challenges and rising threats'

The G7 renewed their support for a political solution to the decade-long conflict in Syria as foreign ministers met in London to discuss efforts to address shared threats, including terrorism in the Sahel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said G7 foreign ministers would continue to work to advance all aspects of the UNSC's resolution 2254, which urges a ceasefire and political process, to "end the suffering of Syrians".

Mr Blinken also said the G7 was "united in condemning the coup and the regime’s violence" in Myanmar.

"We urge all countries to reconsider economic ties to the Burmese military," he said.

He also called for a withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya.

The G7 ministers met in London on Tuesday to discuss “shared challenges and rising threats” on the second day of the group's first face-to-face gathering in more than two years.

Much of the morning was dedicated to China, but Libya, Russia, the violence in Ethiopia, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, the Sahel and western Balkans were also on the agenda.

A series of separate talks between officials was also held, with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meeting French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday to look at climate change, illegal migration across the English Channel, vaccine supply and the situation in the Sahel.

The UK government said they "discussed the need to ensure ambitious action to replenish the Global Partnership for Education", referring to the UN-backed campaign to raise at least $5 billion to transform education in some of the world's poorest countries.

In talks, Mr Raab and Italy's Luigi Di Maio discussed the importance of the Global Coalition against ISIS "in tackling the threat of terrorism from North Africa and the Sahel".

Mr Blinken met separately with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, as Washington seeks a closer relationship with Brussels under President Joe Biden.

The EU said a potential US return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was addressed, as well as the recent build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

London said broader G7 talks sought to tackle the "pressing geopolitical issues that threaten to undermine democracy, freedom and human rights".

Mr Raab met Mr Blinken on Monday, with both pushing for a more unified approach.

"The UK's presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats," Mr Raab said.

Mr Blinken underlined the need for a united stance, as he reiterated US commitment to the "international rules-based order" to tackle issues from climate change to post-pandemic recovery.

He said the US has “no closer ally, no closer partner” than the UK.

“We’re connected by ties of friendship, family, history, shared values and shared sacrifice,” he said.

Ministers are meeting under strict coronavirus protocols, with stripped-back delegations and social distancing, including face masks and Perspex screens between speakers.

The G7 – the world's seven largest advanced economies – is made up of the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.

Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa were invited as guests to the three-day summit, as the UK tries to bolster ties with the Indo-Pacific region in the post-Brexit era.

Britain, which has recorded more than 127,500 coronavirus-related deaths, is gradually easing restrictions as vaccinations increase and the infection rate falls, even as countries such as India and Brazil suffer fresh surges prompting calls for more concerted international action, including widespread access to vaccines.

The World Health Organisation underlined the need for the G7 to fund the vaccines, tests and treatments needed to conquer the pandemic. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the G7 to take decisive action at a summit to be held in June and hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Cornwall, in south-west England.

"The G7 countries are the world's economic and political leaders. They are also home to many of the world's vaccine producers," he said.

"We will only solve the vaccine crisis with the leadership of these countries."

A collective of trade unions added pressure on the UK to use its G7 presidency to help accelerate vaccine supplies to places in most need.

The European Trade Union Confederation, International Trade Union Confederation and Trades Union Congress said Britain must “use its presidency role at the G7 to ensure equitable and free access of Global South countries to Covid-19 vaccines”.

Earlier, Mr Blinken stressed the need for like-minded countries to come together to tackle shared threats.

“Most of the challenges that we face ... not a single one of those challenges can be effectively met by any one country acting alone – even the United States, even the United Kingdom.

"There is, I think, a stronger imperative than at any time since I've been involved in these issues to find ways for countries to co-operate, to co-ordinate, to collaborate."

Mr Raab said the attendance of countries beyond the G7 was proof of "the increasing demand and need for agile clusters of like-minded countries that share the same values and want to protect the multilateral system".

Britain, which left the EU last year, is looking to Asia-Pacific countries for new trade and investment opportunities, but also as a reflection of the region's growing strategic importance.

It wants wider, stronger global commitments on tackling climate change as it prepares to host the UN COP26 climate change summit in November.

Close allies Britain and the US are increasingly aligned in foreign policy towards geopolitical threats, particularly from Russia and China.

Mr Blinken will on Wednesday travel to Ukraine, where there is Western concern about Russia's build-up of forces on the border, Moscow's treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the political situation in Belarus.

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