MUENSTER, Germany — Top diplomats from the world’s major industrialized democracies on Friday rallied support for Ukraine in its resistance to Russia’s invasion and coalesced around suspicion of China’s increasing assertiveness amid a panoply of global crises.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations, wrapping up two days of talks in the historic western German city of Muenster, were set to release a statement asserting common positions on Ukraine, Russia, China and recent developments in Iran and North Korea, officials said.
A year after warning Russia about the consequences of invading Ukraine, the G-7 ministers were expected to endorse further punishments for the Kremlin and additional backing for Kyiv and countries affected by food and energy shortages that the war has exacerbated, the officials said.
“It is incredibly important that we retain our strategic endurance, the willingness to stick with this until this is done, both to support the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against aggression but also to lift the pressure off those countries around the world, those people around the world who are already experiencing food insecurity and are pushed even closer to famine,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
Along with the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States comprise the G-7.
The ministers will also call out Iran for allegedly supplying weapons to Russia and a brutal crackdown on antigovernment protesters. Their statement will further condemn the recent escalation of tensions in Asia caused by North Korean military activity.
“As a collective G-7, our work is to ensure that we maintain peace, bring back peace also to the region, and we are there to protect these international norms,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said.
One senior U.S. official said the group of advanced economies had demonstrated “remarkable” unity on virtually all major issues despite often competing domestic interests and priorities, particularly in regards to China’s growing economic clout and global ambitions even as the leader of G-7 host Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits Beijing.
In a side meeting between Cleverly, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and their French and German counterparts, the State Department said the four had agreed on the need for “consistent support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brutal war of aggression” and had also discussed a common approach to “Iran’s military support of Russia and its violent crackdown and suppression of the Iranian people.”
However, it remains unclear how much influence the G-7 actually wields. Its warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin last December to stay out of Ukraine went unheeded. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has sided with Moscow and is forging ahead with plans to reunify Taiwan with the mainland by force, if necessary.
In the meantime, Iran has ignored calls to return to a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, started to supply weapons to assist Russia in the Ukraine war, and launched a major crackdown on domestic dissent. Similarly, North Korea has shunned appeals to return to nuclear negotiations and stepped up missile launches, raising tensions and fears of an open conflict.
In Germany, many have noted the historic significance of the venue where the G-7 ministers were meeting: the room where the Treaty of Westphalia ending Europe’s bloody 30 Years War was signed in 1648.
Blinken referred to the 374-year-old document at a Thursday event with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. He said Russia’s actions in Ukraine were an attack on the concepts of national sovereignty and territorial integrity that many believe the centuries-old treaty established.
“These are the very principles that are being challenged today by Russia,” Blinken said. “If we let that be challenged with impunity, then the foundations of the international order will start to erode and eventually crumble, and none of us can afford to let that happen.”
On China, the G-7 was expected to further harmonize joint policies related to Chinese investment in their countries and to caution Beijing against antagonistic moves against Taiwan.
Scholz is visiting Beijing this week, becoming the first European and G-7 leader to make the trip since the war in Ukraine began. Chinese investment in a major port project in Germany has raised concerns in Washington and other capitals that China might gain a controlling interest in critical infrastructure in the heart of an allied country.
The visit has drawn criticism over China’s tacit support for Russia, and for coming after Xi cemented his authoritarian rule at a Communist Party congress last month. But it reflects the importance of Germany’s trade ties with China, the world’s second-largest economy.