The G7 group of top economic powers on Monday cancelled a planned summit to be hosted by Russia as they stepped up efforts to isolate Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.
After emergency talks at The Hague called by US President Barack Obama, the G7 said they would hold a meeting in Brussels without Russia instead of the wider G8 summit that was to have taken place in Sochi.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the decision to hold the G8 meeting without Russia this year is "of course a huge blow to the G8, it means there is no G8 this year".
He added: "The president of the United States was very clear in the meeting that it will then be hard to revive that in the immediate future."
The G7 leaders also warned that Russia will face damaging economic sanctions if Russian President Vladimir Putin takes further action to destabilise Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea.
“We remain ready to intensify actions including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation," they said in a joint statement.
At the same time as Monday's summit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsia, in a possible sign of easing tensions between the two countries despite Moscow moving to tighten its grip on Crimea in recent days with the targeting Ukrainian military installations.
The meeting was the first such encounter between the two ministers since last month's ouster of the pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich and Russia's annexation of Crimea on March 21.
Europe to discuss reducing dependence on Russian gas
Russia’s move to take control of the peninsula has led to the biggest East-West confrontation since the Cold War, with the US and Europe imposing visa bans and freezing assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest political and business allies in retribution.
“Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” Obama said after a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “We’re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far.”
Europe though has proved more reluctant then the US to impose tougher sanctions on Russia. The EU does 10 times as much trade with Russia as the United States, and is the biggest customer for Russian oil and gas.
At Monday’s meeting, members of the G7 agreed to discuss ways to reduce European dependence on Russian energy supplies in coming weeks and months.
"When we talk about sanctions, possible reactions, energy questions must be asked," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
"We must be in a situation where we don't depend as much as we do today on Russia," he said.
Lavrov, meanwhile, was unconcerned by Russia’s exclusion from the G8.
"If our Western partners think that this format has outlived itself, then so be it. At the very least, we are not trying to hold on to this format, and we see no great tragedy if it (the G8) does not meet," he told reporters.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-24