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Neighbors Growing Together | May 24, 2018

G7 to set up group to study Russian ‘malign behavior’: UK

By David Ljunggren and Sabine Siebold | Apr 23, 2018

TORONTO (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations will create a working group to study Russia’s “malign behavior” because of concerns about Moscow’s actions, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Monday.

Tensions with the West have increased steadily over recent years as Russia becomes involved in conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. Russia is also blamed for a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain last month.

Johnson said the G7, meeting in Toronto, had agreed on the need to be vigilant about Russia, which denies involvement in the attack.

“What we decided yesterday was that we were going to set up a G7 group that would look at Russian malign behavior in all its manifestations - whether it’s cyber warfare, whether it’s disinformation, assassination attempts, whatever it happens to be and collectively try to call it out,” he told reporters.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas earlier told reporters that the G7 would formally call on Moscow to contribute to solving the crisis in Syria, where Russia and Iran are backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Asked what the final statement from the two-day meeting would say, Maas told reporters that “It establishes again that there will be no political solution in Syria without Russia ... and that Russia has to contribute its share to such a solution.”

The G7 meeting is the first high-level gathering of the allies since the United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack on April 7.

The Western countries blame Assad for the attack that killed dozens of people. The Syrian government and its Russian ally deny involvement or using poison gas on April 7.

Maas also said the leaders of France and Germany would urge U.S. President Donald Trump not to pull out of an Iran nuclear deal with major powers.

Trump has given the European signatories of the deal a May 12 deadline to “fix the terrible flaws” of the 2015 nuclear agreement, or he will refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran.

The agreement offered Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

“We accept that Iranian behavior has been disruptive in the region, we accept the president has some valid points that need to be addressed but we believe they are capable of being addressed (inside the deal),” said Johnson.

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