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THE HAGUE, March 24. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia does to hold on to the G8 (Group of Eight), Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in The Hague on Monday, March 24.
“The G8 is an informal club. There are no membership cards there and no one can be expelled from it by definition. It has played it role, as many think, because all economic and financial issues are discussed within the Group of 20. The Group of Eight continued to exit mainly because it was a forum for discussion between the leading Western countries and Russia,” he said.
He recalled that the G8 had discussed such issues as the Iranian nuclear issue, nuclear security on the Korean Peninsula, Syria, and the Balkans. “But there are actually other formats for discussing these issues - the U.N. Security Council, there is the Middle East Quartet to discuss the Middle East settlement, and the P1+5 to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue,” Lavrov said.
“If our Western partners think that this format has outlived itself, so be it. We do not hold on to it. We don’t think it will be a tragedy if it’s not convened. We can wait for a year or a year and a half, as an experiment, and see how we live without it,” the minister said.
Replying to questions from journalists on March 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was still preparing the G8 summit in Sochi scheduled for June. “We will be ready to host the summit with our colleagues. If they do not want to come - so be it,” he said.
He stressed that Russia’s actions were based on international law and bilateral obligations, unlike those of the United States which “always clearly formulates their own geopolitical and states interests and follow them with persistence… and draw the whole world in.”
When asked about possible sanctions from the West against Russia, Putin said that “It is primarily those who intend to apply them that need to consider their consequences.” The president stressed that “any threat against Russia is counterproductive and harmful.”
Russia took over the presidency in the Group of Eight on January 1, 2014. The main event of its presidency - the G8 summit - was scheduled to be held in Sochi on June 4-5.
British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to exclude Russia from the Group of Eight if it refused to cooperate on de-escalation of tensions in Ukraine. Speaking at a meeting of the EU heads of state or government on March 6, Cameron stressed that “illegal actions committed by Russia cannot pass without a response.”
The EU leaders agreed to suspend negotiations on a more liberal visa regime for Russians, to stop work on a comprehensive new agreement on relations between Russia and the EU, and to pull out of all preparations for the G8 summit in Sochi in June.
“And if Russia does not rapidly engage in direct talks with the Ukrainian government to find a solution to this crisis, we have been clear that we will go further,” Cameron warned, adding that the leaders had tasked the European Commission to start work on additional measures, including travel bans and asset freezes.
He noted that “situation in Ukraine remains highly precarious - the slightest miscalculation could see it spiral out of control” and issued “a very clear warning to President Putin that he must not destabilise the situation further.”
“If Russia does not change course, the statement issued today now makes clear that there will be severe and far reaching consequences in areas such an energy, trade, and financial relations,” he said.
On March 9, Putin had telephone conversations with Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“The conversations continued discussion on the highly complex social and political situation unfolding in Ukraine and also issues concerning the organisation of a referendum in Crimea on March 16, 2014. Although the three leaders did express differences of opinion regarding the events taking place, they declared their common interest in de-escalating tension and returning the situation to normal as soon as possible,” the presidential press service said.
Putin noted, in particular, that the steps Crimea’s legitimate authorities were taking were in line with international law and seek to guarantee the lawful interests of the peninsula’s population. The president also noted that the current authorities in Kiev had not taken any steps to rein in ultranationalist and radical forces in the Ukrainian capital and in many regions.
The three leaders exchanged views on possible international efforts to settle the crisis. They agreed to continue close working contacts, including at the foreign ministers’ level, the press service said.
On March 24, Cameron said the summit would not take place, and Merkel said the G8 format no longer existed.
The Group of Eight (G8) is an unofficial forum of the world's major economies (Russia, the United States, Great Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Canada, and Italy, with the participation of the EU Leaders) designed to coordinate approaches to the most pressing issues of global affairs.
The G8 does not operate as an international organisation, not being based on an international treaty or having a charter or permanent secretariat. The decisions taken by the G8 are non-binding political commitments of the member states to follow the agreed logic of action in addressing specific issues.
The host country of the G8 annual summit is presiding over the forum throughout the year, coordinating the G8's operating activities. The rotation of the G8 Presidency starts with France (last presidency in 2011), followed by the U.S., the UK, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Canada. The EU does not host summits and cannot assume presidency.