G7 leaders seek common ground on economy, migration challenges

G7 leaders began their annual summit Thursday with discussions on how best to reboot global economic growth, while the European Union appealed for support in tackling migration and the continent's refugee crisis.

Japanese Prime Minister and summit host Shinzo Abe has put the economy at the forefront of the two-day talks, in the hope of winning support for coordinated fiscal stimulus. Abe is facing economic headwinds at home with diappointing results from his much-hyped "Abenomics" programme.

But Germany in particular is opposed to the stimulus-driven approach, which Chancellor Angela rejected during a visit by the Japanese premier to Berlin earlier this month.

The leaders will "reaffirm an important role of fiscal, monetary and structural policies," Kyodo News agency reported Thursday, citing an unnamed Japanese government source.

Their compromise agreement is expected to state that each country should choose the mix most suited to its circumstances, according to diplomatic sources.

Meanwhile, EU President Donald Tusk called Thursday for the G7 to send out a signal for more global assistance in the current refugee and migration crisis.

The bloc has been grappling with a surge in illegal migration that saw 1 million people reach the continent last year, mostly from the Middle East and North Africa.

"We are aware that it is because of geography that the most responsibility is - and will continue to be - placed on Europe, however we would also like the global community to show solidarity and recognize the fact that this is a global crisis," Tusk told journalists ahead of the summit.

Tusk said he would "appeal to G7 leaders" to boost public assistance to refugees and host communities and to espouse resettlement schemes and other forms of legal migration around the world.

Later Thursday, the leaders are also expected to discuss the conflict in Ukraine and the role of Russia, which was excluded from the G8 in 2014 after annexing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Moscow is accused of supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, and has been hit with Western sanctions, with EU measures up for renewal at the end of July.

"Our stance vis-a-vis Russia, including economic sanctions, will remain unchanged as long as the Minsk agreements are not fully implemented," Tusk said, referring to the peace deal signed in the Belarusian capital.

The EU is "ready to continue with our sanctions," he added, noting that he expected a decision "in the next two, three weeks."

Other regional flashpoints to be addressed during the summit include Chinese claims over the South China Sea, a key shipping lane that is also claimed in various parts by five neighbouring countries.

"Any maritime or territorial claim should be based on the international law and any possible dispute should be resolved by peaceful means," Tusk said. "Unilateral actions and the use of force or coercion will not be accepted."

Before the start of the summit, Abe took the G7 leaders to the Ise Grand Shrine, the most sacred site in Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion.

The G7 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, while the EU is also takes part. Italy will host the 2017 summit on the Italian island of Sicily, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced on his website.

Last update: Thu, 26/05/2016 - 12:37

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