Russian return to G7 'unimaginable' for now: Merkel
BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
AP PhotoGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel said May 21 a return of Russia to the Group of Seven major industrialised democracies was "unimaginable" as long as it flouts international law in Ukraine.
But she also sought to allay Moscow's fears about European influence in its Soviet-era satellite states, saying the so-called Eastern Partnership project was "not an instrument" of EU enlargement policy.
Merkel -- who hosts a G7 summit next month -- was later May 21 heading to a meeting in the Latvian capital Riga between leaders of the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The German leader said that the meeting would be held "under completely different circumstances" to the last such summit in Vilnius in late 2013.
"In the meantime we have witnessed Russia's annexation of Crimea, in breach of international law," Merkel told the German parliament. "We have witnessed the massive destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. We have witnessed how Europe's peaceful order was put into question."
For that reason, Russia would stay excluded from the G7, Merkel said, calling the group a "community of values" that works together "to achieve freedom, democracy and the rule of law".
"As long as Russia does not commit itself, and act according to, the fundamental values of international law, a return to the G8 format is unimaginable for us," she said ahead of the June 7-8 summit in Bavaria state.
"Because only if we as the G7 convincingly stand for our common values can we credibly take responsibility on the international stage," she said about the grouping of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
Merkel, who has taken a lead in Europe's diplomacy over the Ukraine crisis, stressed that "we will not accept thinking in terms of spheres of influence in the Europe of the 21st century".
She said "the Eastern Partnership is not aimed against anyone, especially not against Russia".
The six ex-Soviet states did not face an "either-or" choice of closer ties with Russia or the EU, she said, adding that "we must not therefore arouse false expectations which we cannot later fulfil".
She also said that resolving the Ukraine dispute, based on the Minsk agreement, would take much patience but told the lawmakers: "We have a lot of patience and staying power."