In Hiroshima, G7 Leaders Grapple With Nuclear Threat

As leaders of the Group of Seven richest democracies kick off their summit Friday in Hiroshima, Japan, with a visit to the city’s Peace Memorial – a massive outdoor monument that captures the devastation caused by the atomic bomb – they pledged their commitment to “achieving a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.”

The leaders met a bomb survivor and laid wreaths at a cenotaph honoring the victims, in sight of the Genbaku Dome, the only structure left standing following the attack by U.S. forces in August 1945 that killed 140,000 people by the end of the year.

The first G-7 leaders’ document focusing on nuclear disarmament calls out Russia for its “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, undermining of arms control regimes, and stated intent to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus,” and China for “accelerating build-up of its nuclear arsenal without transparency.”

The leaders reaffirm their goal toward a “complete, verifiable, and irreversible abandonment” of North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. They urge Iran to “cease its nuclear escalation.”

Adding to the urgency of disarmament and the somber backdrop, the presence of a leader who personifies the threat of World War III. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be attending the G-7 summit in person on Sunday, a Ukrainian official confirmed.

Summit host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, whose family is from Hiroshima, chose the venue to highlight the dangers of nuclear weapons amid North Korean ballistic missile tests, Iran’s accelerating uranium enrichment activities, China’s rapid military buildup and Russia’s threat to deploy tactical nuclear weapons.

“I believe the first step toward any nuclear disarmament effort is to provide a first-hand experience of the consequences of the atomic bombing and to firmly convey the reality,” Kishida said prior to the summit.

Ahead of the summit, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged G-7 leaders to adopt a nuclear weapon no-use policy and for nuclear weapons states to declare they will not use them “in any circumstance” — an unlikely prospect, amid heightened tensions involving nuclear powers.

Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom are defined as nuclear weapons states — those that have built and tested a nuclear explosive device before January 1, 1967. India, Pakistan, and North Korea have declared they possess nuclear weapons, while Israel is believed to own them.

Extended deterrence

Nuclear disarmament is a challenging thread for Kishida to weave amid Tokyo’s desire for stronger U.S. deterrence. In their meeting Thursday, Biden reaffirmed to Kishida Washington’s “extended deterrence commitment using the full range of U.S. capabilities.”

Those capabilities include nuclear weapons, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told VOA on Friday.

While Biden wants to abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Kirby said, it is important that the U.S. nuclear umbrella benefiting treaty allies, including Japan and South Korea, remains in place, credible, and modernized.

Kirby would not confirm whether the administration intends to broaden a nuclear deterrence deal it signed in April with Seoul, to include Tokyo.

The deal, called simply the Washington Declaration, affirms that Seoul would not pursue its own nuclear weapons program in return for a more muscular U.S. presence in the region and a greater decision-making role in U.S. contingency planning in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack.

“Similar logic can also apply to Japan,” said Ken Jimbo, former adviser to Japan’s Defense Ministry who now teaches at Keio University, pointing to greater security challenges facing the country.

While Japan and the U.S. want global disarmament to be the ultimate goal, Jimbo told VOA, strengthening nuclear extended deterrence in the region is an important priority for both.

Biden, Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol are planning to meet on the sidelines of the summit. South Korea is not part of the G-7 but has been invited by Japan to discuss common concerns, including Pyongyang’s nuclear threat.

Given Japan’s push for disarmament at the summit, however, it’s unlikely an extension of the Washington Declaration will be raised in Hiroshima, said Sheila Smith, a Council on Foreign Relations expert on Japanese foreign policy.

“A more realistic expectation is that President Yoon, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida were going to talk about integrated missile radar systems and a more practical, pragmatic agenda for trilateral security cooperation,” Smith told VOA.

She noted that a continued momentum of improvement in the trilateral relationship would also be a very good political signal to Beijing that it can’t divide U.S. allies in the region.

Source: Voice of America

Leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations gather in Hiroshima

The leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations have agreed a new package of sanctions to starve the Russian War machine, renewong thier commitment to providing financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support to Ukraine. The G7 summit in taking place in Hirsohima Japan, where Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to address leaders on Sunday having been invited for the first time. Yasmine El-Sabawi reports.


Progress at last? Armenia and Azerbaijan give peace another chance

On May 14, leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Brussels for high-level talks mediated by the EU Council President Charles Michel. Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev reportedly discussed border delimitation, reopening transport and economic links, and the release of two Azerbaijani soldiers captured in Armenia.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Charles Michel said the conversation was “frank, open, and result-oriented.”

The meeting in Brussels took place just ten days after the two countries’ foreign ministers met in Washington DC, where the two sides discussed the draft bilateral Agreement on Peace and Establishment of Interstate Relations.

In Brussels, Charles Michel underscored the importance of maintaining momentum and taking “decisive steps” toward the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement.

The leaders of both countries agreed to resume bilateral meetings to address questions of border delimitation, confirming their commitment to the borders established in the 1991 Almaty Declaration and the respective territorial integrity of Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to the statement issued by the European Council.

Michel added that “clear progress” had been made regarding reopening transport and economic links between the two countries and that the two sides were now approaching an agreement regarding reopening a railway connection to and via Nakhchivan. Nakhchivan is Azerbaijan’s remote enclave sandwiched between Armenia, Turkey, and Iran.

According to the final point of the trilateral deal brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and co-signed by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in November 2020, “all economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked.”

“At issue is a series of transport routes that have been closed since the early 1990s, cutting off Armenia and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan from international access. If these closed routes are all ‘unblocked,’ as the agreement stipulates, the most noticeable impact will be a reactivated north-south route that runs from Russia to Armenia and Iran via Azerbaijan,” wrote Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, specializing in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. “A new good-quality rail network with minimal border controls would also boost east-west trade, especially if the Armenia-Turkey border, closed since 1993, is reopened,” he added.

The leaders reportedly also discussed the release of prisoners in the coming weeks, particularly the two Azerbaijani soldiers captured in Armenian territory in April. They also agreed on “stepping up” work to demine in the region. In June 2021, Azerbaijan released 15 Armenian detainees in exchange for maps showing the locations of nearly 100,000 landmines that Armenian forces had planted in the territory that Azerbaijan retook in 2020’s bitter war between the two nations. The agreement was praised at the time by the Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In a statement, the Ministry said, “Obtaining mine maps will save the lives and health of tens of thousands of our citizens, including demining workers, and accelerate the reconstruction projects initiated by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, in Agdam and the return of IDPs.”

Michel added that he had encouraged Azerbaijan to work towards guaranteeing Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians’ rights and security and had raised the need for a “transparent and constructive dialogue” between them and Baku.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry described the meeting as “useful and result-oriented” while noting that the Brussels meetings had not taken place for almost nine months due to “attempts to interfere and set conditions.”

Armenia’s Prime Minister’s Office noted the same points of discussion described by Michel while offering no assessment of the meeting.

Both Yerevan and the EU Council President also said the leaders would meet again on the margins of the European Political Community Summit in Chi?inau, Moldova, on June 1, this time alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Baku has previously rejected France’s involvement in the negotiations, accusing the country of supporting Armenia.

Michel stated that the leaders had agreed to hold the Brussels meetings “as often as necessary,” with another meeting scheduled to take place in July and that he would invite Pashinyan and Aliyev to meet at another European Political Community summit in Granada in October.

The talks and meetings continue to take place amid escalations. Most recently, on May 11, both sides accused one another of violating the ceasefire agreement, which put an end to the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020.

Source: Global Voices

The agreements of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia are a roadmap – Lavrov

There is no alternative to the trilateral statements of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on the settlement of the situation in the South Caucasus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated at the opening a trilateral meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Friday afternoon. He expressed hope that the meeting would be constructive, and a direct dialogue between Ararat Mirzoyan and Ceyhun Bayramov would allow achieving additional results. Lavrov proposed to consider the whole range of issues of normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and coordination of further steps, taking into account Russia’s capabilities. “The trilateral statements of our leaders contain, in fact, a roadmap for achieving sustainable solutions. We have analyzed the situation around the South Caucasus and believe that there is no alternative to the agreements of our leaders. Russia wants peace and stability in the region, and Russian interests are directly linked here. The Russian Federation will do everything possible to ensure that decisions concerning the stabilization of the situation are implemented, hoping that all other countries that are somehow interested in being present in this region will respect them,” RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying. Lavrov also noted the need to stabilize the situation in Karabakh and on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan, the need to solve humanitarian problems, unblock transport communications and coordinate the text of the peace agreement.

Source: Turan News Agency

Flight on Prague-Baku route delayed – AZAL

Flight J2-110 of Azerbaijan Airlines on the Prague-Baku route was delayed for technical reasons, Trend reports.

Passengers of the delayed flight will fly to Baku by another plane at 23:50 (GMT+4).

Source: Trend News Agency