G7 slams China over Russia ties, ‘harmful’ trade

G7 leaders meeting in Italy on Friday hardened their tone against China, warning Beijing to stop sending weapons components to Russia and play by the rules on trade, according to a draft summit statement. China has been a key focus of the Group of Seven talks in Puglia, amid souring trade relations between Beijing and the West and concerns that its supplies of equipment to Moscow are fuelling Russia’s war in Ukraine. “We call on China to cease the transfer of dual-use materials, including weapons components and equipment, that are inputs for Russia’s defence sector,” according to a draft statement seen by AFP. The Group of Seven also took aim at what it called “dangerous” incursions by China in the South China Sea, where worries of a military escalation between Beijing and its neighbours are rising. “We oppose China’s militarisation, and coercive and intimidation activities in the South China Sea,” the statement read, using stronger language than at last year’s summit in Japan. After a first day dominated by Ukraine, US Presi­dent Joe Biden and the leaders of Japan, France, Germany, Cana­da, Britain and host country Italy turned their focus to the world’s second-largest economy, a superpower whose oversized influence on geopolitics and global trade cannot be underestimated. “G7 countries are on the same page vis-a-vis China,” a Japanese government source told AFP. Thursday’s talks, attended by Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, were marked by a strong show of G7 support for Kyiv, with an agreement to use profits from frozen Russian assets to provide a new $50-billion loan to Ukraine. With the war in its third year, the G7 statement said the deal sent an “unmistakeable signal” to Russian President Vladimir Putin that they would back Kyiv for “as long as it takes”. Humanitarian relief The G7 leaders said the UN Palestinian refugee agency must be allowed to work unhindered in Gaza. “We agree it is critical that UNRWA and other UN organisations and agencies’ distribution networks be fully able to deliver aid to those who need it most, fulfilling their mandate effectively,” they said. They called for all parties to facilitate “rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need” in Gaza, particularly women and children. “Securing full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access in all its forms — consistent with international humanitarian law, and through all relevant land crossing points, including the Rafah crossing, through maritime delivery routes, including through Ashdod Port — and throughout all of Gaza remains an absolute priority,” they said. UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January, when Israel accused about a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of being involved in the October 7 attack. That prompted many governments, including top donor the United States, to suspend funding to the agency, threatening its effo­rts to deliver aid in Gaza, although several have since resumed payments. In the draft statement, the G7 leaders repeated concern at the “unacceptable number of civilian casualties” in the Gaza conflict, now into its ninth month. They again endorse a truce and prisoner release deal.