Potsdam: Foreign ministers of the Group of Eight nations met on 30 May to lay the groundwork for next week’s summit in Germany as discord over climate change and Kosovo cast a shadow over the talks.
Several of the top diplomats gathering in the eastern city of Potsdam were due to travel to nearby Berlin for a meeting of the Quartet on Middle East peace, grouping the United States, the UN, the EU and Russia later on 30 May.
The Potsdam meeting was aimed at preparing the summit of leaders of the Group of Eight most industrialised nations in Heiligendamm, northeast Germany, 6-8 June.
The ministers were tackling a range of international crises including the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes, strife-torn Afghanistan and the future status of Kosovo.
Although the environment was not on the official agenda, Japan poured cold water on a German proposal to complete negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gases by 2009, calling it “premature.”
Japan has been leading efforts among Asian nations to limit global warming. It said it believed major emitters of greenhouse gases such as the United States, China and India should agree to join the process before any timetable was put in place.“Until we know if they will join us, it is premature,” Sakaba said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has staked Germany’s 12-month presidency of the G8 on hammering out a binding agreement between the leading industrial powers on limiting the emission of greenhouse gases -- a prospect Washington has rejected out of hand.
The future status of Kosovo, an issue that bitterly divides Russia and the West, also sparked a heated discussion in Potsdam.
Russia rejects proposals by chief UN negotiator Martti Ahtisaari to grant Kosovo internationally supervised independence from Serbia.
A German delegation source called a discussion on the province “open, intense and serious” diplomatic language for heated.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country has traditionally strong ties to Serbia, said he wanted “justice” for the province, insisting that the international community should have no say in its future.
“The fate of Serbia, the fate of Kosovo, should not be decided in New York, not in Potsdam and not in other formats but rather in direct negotiations between the two sides,” Lavrov told his G8 counterparts.He firmly rejected a call by Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany for Russia to cooperate with international partners on the issue.
“We do not need one-sided compromise (from Russia) but rather an agreement about how the process at the UN Security Council should continue. I hope that that can also be made to clear to the Russian representatives,” Steinmeier said.
Germany took advantage of the presence of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Lavrov to hastily convene the Middle East Quartet, the body which drew up the stalled roadmap for peace.
However, faced with the bloodiest internal clashes in Lebanon for decades and the firing of Palestinian rockets into Israel and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, expectations for the meeting were low.
In Potsdam, the ministers said they were troubled by the situation in the Middle East, a German delegation source said.
“The spiral of violence must be stopped,” Steinmeier told his fellow ministers according to the source.The ministers also covered the precarious situation in Afghanistan.
Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta and his Pakistani opposite number Khurshid Kasuri were attending the Potsdam talks as part of a German-brokered initiative to resolve a dispute about their porous joint border. Kasuri insisted both sides were striving for a solution.
“We have a vital interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan. History has taught us that when there is trouble in Afghanistan, it tends to spill over into Pakistan,” he told reporters.
Afghanistan and Pakistan have been trading recriminations about growing violence linked to Taliban extremists on either side of the border.