G8 focuses on Syria
The foreign ministers of the G8 group of states met in Washington on 11 to 12 April to discuss pressing international issues. The meeting focused on the fragile situation in Syria and the international efforts to stop the violence there. But issues such as the Iranian nuclear programme, breaking the standstill in the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan, North Korea, and developments in Africa were also on the ministers’ agenda. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the meeting. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle attended on behalf of Germany.
Foreign Minister Westerwelle among the G8 foreign ministers
With a view to the situation in Syria, the G8 called upon the government in Damascus and all conflicting parties to fully implement all aspects of the six-point plan put forward by Special Envoy Kofi Annan. The ministers welcomed reports of a “fragile” ceasefire in Syria, but expressed their ongoing deep concern about the terrible loss of human lives and the humanitarian crisis in the country. Foreign Minister Westerwelle stressed: “With all due caution, the most important thing now is that this ceasefire actually holds.”
He added that it was vital to now observe the situation on the ground very closely. He said that if the ceasefire held and the other points in Kofi Annan’s plan were complied with, Germany would call in the United Nations for an observer mission to be sent to Syria. The Minister once again called for a political solution to the conflict.
The G8 foreign ministers reaffirmed their backing for democratic movements and “new democracies” throughout the Middle East and North Africa. They said that democratization and economic development in the region would continue to be supported through the “Deauville Partnership”.
Concern over the Iranian nuclear programme
Heavy water reactor in Arak, Iran (Archive)
Iran’s ongoing nuclear programme was also a key topic at the Foreign Ministers Meeting. The German Government is standing by the two-track approach which combines sanctions with the offer of dialogue. The meetings between the E3+3 (Germany, France, the UK, China, Russia and the US) and Iran will continue on 14 April in Istanbul. Their aim is to persuade Iran to enter into a substantive negotiating process which would clear up all unresolved questions surrounding its nuclear programme.
In Washington the G8 foreign ministers underscored the deep concern of the international community about possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme, and called upon Iran to fulfil its international obligations. Foreign Minister Westerwelle stressed: “Through a political and diplomatic solution, we want to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear armed.” This, he said, required that substantive talks be carried out.
Middle East peace process
The G8 foreign ministers also dealt with the standstill in the Middle East peace process. In their concluding statement they said that a long-term solution could only be reached through direct negotiations. The statement called upon the conflicting parties to refrain from unilateral action and create an atmosphere conducive to peace. The Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the EU, Russia and the US met on the margins of the G8 consultations and called for continued international support for the Palestinian Authority. Roughly 1.1 billion US dollars are needed in 2012.
Also on the international agenda
Briefing at the 'Blair House'
A political solution to Afghanistan’s problems is also being sought. Minister Westerwelle said in Washington that it was vital to advance reconciliation in the country as well as the reintegration of former insurgents into Afghan society. The G8 foreign ministers stressed at the conclusion of the meeting that the Afghans themselves needed to lead the way along the path to reconciliation.
Following the attempted launch of a long-range missile by North Korea on 12 April, the G8 condemned the breach of UN Security Council resolutions and the undermining of regional peace and security by the leadership in Pyongyang. The ministers said North Korea had to give up all its nuclear weapons and its existing nuclear weapons delivery system programmes.
Finally, the G8 foreign ministers also demanded an immediate end to hostilities and aerial bombing of civilians in the border area between Sudan and South Sudan. The ministers said the two sides had to reach agreement in disputes over oil reserves, citizenship, the location of the border and the status of the Abyei region.
The Group of Eight (G8) comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America; the European Commission is also represented. The United States assumed the group’s rotating Presidency in January 2012. The G8 process focuses on foreign policy issues and thereby complements the G20, which is focused on economic and fiscal policy. The next G8 Summit will take place on 18-19 May 2012 at Camp David in the US. The “Deauville Partnership” to support the rule of law and economic and social reforms in North Africa and the Middle East was established at the last G8 Summit in Deauville, France in May 2011.
- G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting Chair's Statement, 12 April 2012
- G8 Foreign Ministers Statement on North Korea, Washington, 12. 4. 2012
Last updated 13.04.2012