Meeting expected to approve a multi-billion dollar aid package to support Tunisia and Egypt, with issues ranging from global economy to internet regulation also on the agenda.
DEAUVILLE – World leaders have gathered in the French resort of Deauville for a summit of the G8 bloc of wealthy nations. The leaders were discussing how to end the seemingly deadlocked Libya conflict, and their response to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, according to the BBC. Correspondents say recent events such as uprisings in the Arab world and Japan’s nuclear crisis have given the G8 a new sense of purpose.
Also on the agenda is how little or how much the internet should be regulated. Internet bosses – including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google boss Eric Schmidt – are attending the two-day summit in Normandy. The global economy and climate change will also be discussed at the gathering for the leaders of the US, Russia, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada. Debate is expected at the summit on ways of improving global nuclear safety after the breakdown of Japan’s Fukushima power plant following March’s earthquake and tsunami.
G8 also offers the leaders their first real opportunity to debate the so-called Arab Spring uprisings. Interim prime ministers from Tunisia and Egypt – where longtime leaders were overthrown this year – and the head of the Arab League will also be at Deauville for talks on a massive aid plan to help their transition to democracy. Representatives from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are due to spell out for G8 leaders what it would take to stabilise the Tunisian and Egyptian economies. Moreover, G8 leaders are expected to pass a multi-billion dollar aid package for the two countries. Africa will also be represented at the summit, as it has been since 2003. Newly elected leaders from Ivory Coast, Niger and Guinea are expected to participate in sessions about promoting democracy.
Ahead of the summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner called on G8 leaders to work together to support the successful transitions toward democratic societies and more inclusive economies of the Middle East and North Africa, according to RTTNews.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel too, in an address to parliament, pledged her government’s support for the democracy movements in northern Africa and the Arab world, Deutsche Welle said. Merkel told the Bundestag it was “self-evident” that Germany would help advance the democratic process in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, where people have “risked their lives for the acquisition of democracy and freedom.” She said she would urge G8 leaders to help “ensure that the initial political progress is not endangered by economic instability,” suggesting that regional development banks such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) could help with the transition to democracy.
France sells warships to Russia
As the summit opened, the French and Russian leaders met to agree the sale of four French-built Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia at a cost of at least EUR 400 M each. The elements of the deal had been agreed and “the signature will take place within a fortnight”, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after meeting Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. The deal – Russia’s biggest foreign arms purchase since the fall of the Soviet Union – has caused consternation among some of Russia’s neighbours and some of France’s NATO allies.
Obama meets with “friend and partner” Medvedev
Before the summit, President Barack Obama met with his “friend and partner” Russian President Medvedev. Afterwards, the two leaders made brief joint statements to the cameras. They did not take any questions, according to ABC News.
The top topics, according to a senior White House official, were issues remaining to be resolved before Russia can join the World Trade Organization and implementing the START missile defense treaty. In the meeting, which ran long, the two also discussed broader topics relating to the Middle East and North Africa, “sharing ideas on how we can manage the transition process, ensure stability and solve conflicts in a peaceful way,” the president said. Later yesterday, Obama was to meet with Sarkozy and then with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.