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US Splits With G-7 Counterparts on Climate Change


President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave outside Air Force One before returning to Washington D.C. at Sigonella Air Force Base in Sigonella, Sicily, Italy, May 27, 2017.

In an unprecedented move, a Group of Seven summit communique has carved out a unique place for the United States to break with its counterparts on a major issue.

In a pared-down final communique, all G-7 nations, except the United States, pledged action to mitigate climate change.

"The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics," the communique read. "Understanding this process, the heads of state and of government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom and the presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement.”

The United States, according to the document, needs “more time” to decide whether it will exit the landmark deal to reduce carbon emissions agreed upon by representatives of 195 countries two years ago.

“I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!,” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted from Sicily on his personal account before returning to Washington Saturday night.

"I told Donald Trump that it was crucial that the United States remained fully engaged in the Paris climate change deal," French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the climate agreement is so important there should not be any compromises on it.

“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying," the German leader told reporters. "There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”

“There was a very frank exchange of views” on the topic, acknowledged President Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn.

WATCH: Steve Herman reports from the G-7 summit in Italy

Conservation groups criticize delay

Environmental groups immediately expressed disappointment with the American stance.

“Europe, Canada and Japan stood up today and made a stand, revealing again how far Trump is out of step with the rest of the world on climate change,” Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said, adding it was up to the other leaders to ensure that the larger G-20 bloc signals even greater ambition for the transformation to clean energy.

“President Trump should now return to Washington and make the right decision, take climate change seriously and take action with the rest of the world,” said Morgan in a statement sent to VOA News.

Protectionism condemned

Trump did accede on language on trade in the communique, agreeing to fight protectionism despite his oft-repeated “America first” stance on commerce.

“We do to you what you do to us,” was what Trump communicated to his G-7 partners on trade policy, Cohn told reporters.

In remarks to U.S. service personnel at Naval Air Station Sigonella the president did not mention any of the disagreements with the six other countries, saying the summit was “a tremendously productive meeting” and “we made a lot of good friends this week.”

In another break with tradition, the U.S. president did not hold a news conference following the conclusion of the G-7 summit – the only leader present who did not speak with reporters.

Cohn and the president’s national security advisor, General H.R. McMaster, instead, briefed a group of traveling White House reporters but television cameras were not permitted to show their remarks.

Trump’s first foreign trip as U.S. president was a hectic nine-day jaunt that took him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium, concluding with a second Italian stop for the G-7 on the largest Mediterranean island, Sicily.

President Trump poses with, from left, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, African Union President Alpha Conde', African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Ethiopian PM Haile Mariam Desalegn, in Taormina, Italy.
President Trump poses with, from left, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, African Union President Alpha Conde', African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Ethiopian PM Haile Mariam Desalegn, in Taormina, Italy.

Migrants a topic on final day of summit

On the second and final day of the G-7 summit, the host country, Italy, wanted to draw attention to the migration crisis and the dangerous Mediterranean crossings taken by tens of thousands of people looking for a better life in Europe.

Leaders from Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia were involved in Saturday’s talks, as those are the main countries of origin for migrants trying to reach Europe.

The Oxfam charity consortium accused the Trump administration of blocking any agreement on human mobility.

“As the leaders fly home from Taormina they will look down on the waters that have claimed thousands of lives on the G-7’s watch,” said the British-based international confederation of 20 non-governmental organizations.

Along with the United States, the other members of the G-7 are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain. The EU is also represented.

The Africa-focused anti-poverty group One says the communique sets a “new low” for the G-7 in a year of “greatly diminished expectations.”

“The early promise of this summit was crushed by the Trump administration's hostile negotiating posture and the evident lack of ambition of other leaders,” said the international advocacy group’s statement.

North Korea discussed

At the start of a one-hour discussion on Friday between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the U.S. president said the G-7 summit would have a particular focus on the North Korea problem.

The leaders subsequently reaffirmed their commitment “to cooperate to the fullest extent possible to counter terrorist threats” and agreed to “enhance sanctions on North Korea” in an attempt to deter the development of Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs,” according to a White House statement.

The U.S. Navy has dispatched a third strike force group led by a nuclear-powered USS aircraft carrier to the western Pacific.

The USS Nimitz will join the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, VOA News has learned. It is unusual in peacetime for the navy to deploy three aircraft carriers in the same region.

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