Berlin: Germany would play host on 30 May to a diplomatic double-header with G8 foreign ministers gathering to fine-tune the agenda for next week’s summit before the Middle East Quartet meets to seek to calm tensions in the region.
After the ministers from the Group of Eight most industrialised nations have met in Potsdam, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier will make the short journey to Berlin for a crisis meeting of the Quartet -- the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
With G8 leaders gathering in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm on 6-8 June, their foreign ministers will be seeking common ground on 30 May on climate change, the issue which is expected to dominate the summit.
The chances of summit host Germany securing an agreement are already diminishing, with stark differences between G8 nations on how to limit greenhouse gases appearing.
Widely leaked documents show that Washington has strong objections to a proposed global warming declaration prepared by Germany for the Heiligendamm summit.
Chancellor Angela Merkel wants G8 countries to make a commitment to limit the worldwide temperature rise this century to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and slash global greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Germany is reportedly keen to enlist the support of G8 member Japan, which has gradually taken the lead in trying to reduce climate change in Asia.
The situation in strife-torn Afghanistan will also be high on the agenda for Wednesday’s G8 meeting. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta and his Pakistani opposite number Khurshid Kasuri will attend the Potsdam talks as part of a German-brokered initiative.
The neighbours have been trading recriminations about violence linked to Taliban extremists, which is growing on either side of their shared border.
Steinmeier visited both countries this month after three German soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing in the northern Afghan town of Kunduz.
“Our aim is to prepare the ground on both sides for a strengthened cooperation on the issues,” German foreign ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner said.
“We believe that this cooperation will take a more concrete form in Potsdam.”
The impasse over Iran’s nuclear programme, the future status of Kosovo -- an issue that bitterly divides Russia and the West -- and the situation in Iraq are also expected to be discussed.
The Potsdam meeting -- held in the Cecilienhof palace where the victorious leaders gathered at the end of World War II -- is expected to build on efforts made at a meeting of EU and Asian countries in Hamburg on Monday and Tuesday to unify international efforts on the Darfur crisis.
Merkel has said she wants the Heiligendamm summit to give a “strong signal” on the Darfur conflict that has claimed 200,000 lives since 2003. Arab militias backed by the Sudanese government have been accused of mass killings, rape and looting black African villages.
Germany took advantage of the presence of Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to hastily convene the Quartet, the body which drew up the Middle East roadmap.
However, faced with the bloodiest internal clashes in Lebanon for decades and the firing of Palestinian rockets into Israel, expectations for the meeting are low.
German officials stress that the Quartet is seeking “to accompany the efforts of the players on the ground.”