PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday backed Russia rejoining the elite club of the world’s top powers to re-create the G8, so long as the conflict in Ukraine is resolved.
The comments by Macron, who from Saturday will host the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Biarritz, came after President Donald Trump said Moscow should “certainly” be part of the group.
Russia was thrown out of what was the G8 in 2014 after it seized Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, an annexation never recognized by the international community.
“It would be appropriate for Russia to eventually rejoin and re-create the G8 format,” Macron told reporters in Paris.
“The divorce was enacted when Ukraine was invaded. The indispensable precondition is that a solution is found concerning Ukraine.”
In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and visiting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson poured cold water on the idea of readmitting Russia soon.
The G7 now brings together Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.
Macron has maintained a testy relationship with Putin over the last two years but has also insisted that links should not be broken even at a time of rising tensions with the West.
In a gesture ahead of the G7, Macron on Monday hosted Putin for talks at his summer residence in southern France, notably seeking progress on ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine that followed the annexation of Crimea.
Macron said that asking Russia back into the G8 “without any problem” would be a “strategic error” that would show “weakness” on the part of the G7.
But reintegrating Russia into such formats would be “efficient and, I think, useful.
He said that a solution for Ukraine had to be based on the 2015 Minsk cease-fire deal agreed by Russia and Ukraine as well as France and Germany.
Moscow had joined the group in 1998 — when the G7 became the G8 — under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin as the West tried to anchor post-Soviet Russia into the international community.
But tensions intensified throughout Putin’s ascendancy in Russia and he skipped a 2012 G8 summit hosted by the United States shortly after he was re-elected president following a stint as prime minister.
Ironically, Russia held the G8 presidency in 2014 but a summit that it was preparing to hold in June that year in Sochi never took place as it was expelled from the group. The other seven countries instead met in Brussels.
Trump, who will host next year’s G7 summit, said on Tuesday that Russia should be readmitted.
“I could certainly” support that, he told reporters. “It’s much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8, because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia.”
However, in Berlin, Merkel also said progress would first be needed on Ukraine.
Johnson agreed, adding: “Given what happened in Salisbury … given the use of chemical weapons on British soil, given the continuing instability, the civil war in Ukraine, given Russia’s provocation not just in Ukraine but in many other places … the case has yet to be made out for Russia to return to the G7.”