UK says West will counter 'aggressors' as G-7 ministers, allies meet

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the bilateral meeting ahead of the G7 foreign ministers summit in Liverpool, Britain on Dec 10, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

LIVERPOOL (AFP) - UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Saturday (Dec 11) vowed the West and its allies will "take a stand against aggressors who seek to undermine liberty" as she hosts a G-7 ministerial summit.

The two-day gathering in Liverpool, north-west England, of foreign and development ministers from the group of wealthy countries - the last in-person meeting of Britain's year-long G-7 presidency - comes amid rising global tensions.

Russia's build-up of troops on Ukraine's border will top the agenda, alongside discussions on confronting China, limiting Iran's nuclear ambitions and addressing the crisis in military-ruled Myanmar, according to officials.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken jetted in on Friday, holding talks on the sidelines of the summit with Ms Truss and Germany's new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock.

Mr Blinken will fly out to south-east Asia next week on a visit designed to highlight the region's importance in Washington's strategy of standing up to China.

Ministers from the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) will join the summit for the first time ever on Sunday, in a session earmarked for wide-ranging talks including on Covid-19 vaccines, finance and gender equality.

Korea, Australia, South Africa and India will also participate as Britain's chosen G-7 "guests", with many attendees taking part virtually due to the pandemic and emergence of the Omicron variant.

"This weekend, the world's most influential democracies will take a stand against aggressors who seek to undermine liberty and send a clear message that we are a united front," Ms Truss said ahead of the summit.

"I want G-7 countries to deepen ties in areas like trade, investment, technology and security so we can defend and advance freedom and democracy across the world. I will be pushing that point over the next few days."

'Alternative' to adversaries

Ms Truss, who replaced predecessor Dominic Raab as Britain's top diplomat in September, delivered her first major foreign policy address on Wednesday as crises loom around the world.

She warned Moscow it would be "a strategic mistake" to invade Ukraine, following growing concerns over a big Russian troop build-up on the border.

That echoed comments delivered by US President Joe Biden to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a virtual summit the previous day.

Meanwhile, responding to Beijing's increasing international assertiveness and alleged widespread domestic rights abuses has dominated Britain's G-7 presidency.

Mr Biden pushed at a June leaders' summit for a stronger collective stance towards both China and Russia, and this week saw Washington, London and Canberra announce diplomatic boycotts of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Ms Truss has said the West needs to work towards ending the "strategic dependence" of a growing number of low- and middle-income countries on its adversaries, in various areas from energy to technology.

At the summit, she will push attendees to provide them with more finance for infrastructure and technology projects, according to the foreign office.

G-7 countries and their allies must offer "an alternative to unsustainable debt from non-market economies" like China, it said.

Ms Truss will unveil a UK-led initiative - the Africa Resilience Investment Accelerator - to boost collaboration investing in Africa's "most fragile markets" and help develop "a pipeline of investable opportunities".

"It will help the G-7 to meet its commitment to invest over US$80 billion (S$109.24 billion) into the private sector in Africa over the next five years to support sustainable economic recovery and growth," the foreign office added.

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