Dominic Raab has said Russia’s behaviour “has got to change” in order to improve relations with the UK ahead of discussions between G7 foreign ministers.
The foreign secretary held a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Downing Street on Monday.
Among the topics discussed were sanctions on Russian citizens, climate change and President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan later this year.
Mr Raab said there was an increasing demand for “likeminded countries” which shared the same values, such as the countries of the G7 and invited guests, to work together in the face of hostile states like Russia and China.
Ahead of the first G7 foreign ministers meeting in more than two years, Mr Raab said London and Washington stand “shoulder to shoulder” on a range of issues.
Mr Blinken said the US has “no closer ally, no closer partner” than the UK.
Asked by a journalist if there was any consideration for including Russia at G7 gatherings, even informally, Mr Raab said the door for good diplomatic relations is “always open”, but that the behaviour of Russia must change.
He said: “What’s got to change is Russia’s behaviour, as a P5 (permanent) member of the security council, against the basic norms of international law.
“Whether it’s the brinkmanship and the sabre-rattling on the border with Ukraine, whether it’s the cyber attacks and the misinformation or indeed the poisoning of Alexei Navalny which was not just a human rights abuse but the use of chemical weapons on Russian soil.
“So the opportunity for a better relationship with Russia is there, we would welcome it, but it depends on behaviour and deeds.”
Mr Blinken added that the US also wants a more stable relationship with Russia – but that will depend on how aggressively the Kremlin decides to act.
It comes ahead of a planned meeting between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden in the next month or so.
He said: “President Biden’s been very clear for a long time, including before he was president, that if Russia chooses to act recklessly or aggressively, we’ll respond.
“But we’re not looking to escalate: we would prefer to have a more stable, more predictable relationship. And if Russia
moves in that direction, so will we.”
Mr Blinken said the West was not trying to “contain” or “hold China down”.
“What we’re trying to do is to uphold the international rules-based order that our countries have invested so much in over so many decades,” he said.
“And when any country – China or otherwise – takes actions that challenge or undermine or seek to erode that rules-based order and not make good on the commitments that they’ve made to that order, we will stand up and defend the order.”
Mr Raab said: “I think it’s fair to say we see eye to eye on the need to stand up for our values, holding Beijing to the commitments that they’ve made, whether it’s in relation to Hong Kong under the joint declaration or wider commitments, whilst also at the same time finding constructive ways to work with China in a sensible and positive manner.”
He added: “I think on global issues like climate change, we want to see China stepping up to the plate and playing its full role.”
US-UK special relationship
Mr Blinken told the news conference that the US and UK’s special relationship is “close to the hearts of the American people”.
He said: “We’re connected. It’s often said but always important to reaffirm. We’re connected by ties of friendship, family, history, shared values, and shared sacrifice.
“We’ve been reminded of that again in recent weeks as we prepare to draw down our forces from Afghanistan.
“We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder for nearly 20 years, sharing a mission and having each others’ backs. We’ll never forget it.
“The United States has no closer ally, no closer partner, than the United Kingdom, and I’m very glad for the chance to say that again here today,” he continued.
He added that President Biden is “very much looking forward” to being in the UK for G7.
On Sunday, Mr Raab insisted the cut to UK foreign aid spending was “necessary” due to the “seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy”.
During Monday’s press conference he said it had been a “difficult decision” but that the UK still has scope “to be an even greater force for good in the world”.
He said: “Even after the cuts that we’ve had to make because of the pressing COVID situation, the biggest contraction of our economy for 300 years, double the budget deficit we faced after the financial crash, we’re still putting £10bn in.
“As a proportion of GDP still the third biggest G7 donor. Doubling our international climate finance contribution, one of the biggest bilateral humanitarian donors, the biggest donor to GAVI.”
He added that while it’s been a “difficult decision” he believes it “shows the scope for us to be an even greater force for good in the world”.
Mr Raab said reports from Iran that said Britain would pay a £400m debt to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe are “not yet accurate”.
The aid worker has just been sentenced to another year in prison after finishing a five-year sentence in Iran.
“It’s incumbent on Iran unconditionally to release those who are held arbitrarily and, in our view, unlawfully, and the
reports, I’m afraid, are not yet accurate in terms of the suggestion of her imminent release,” he told the news conference.
Mr Raab praised Joe Biden’s administration on its “very welcome steps” on climate change which had created “momentum”.
He said: “I think it’s fair to say the Biden administration is barely 100 days old, but has already taken a huge number of bold and very welcome steps on issues like climate change, global health and human rights.
“And that’s really created momentum in efforts to tackle these pressing global issues.”
He also said “we must work with China” on global issues such as climate change.
Mr Raab said the UK government wants to see an “end to the violence” in Myanmar.
He said: “We want to see the military regime return to democracy and the electoral mandate that the government should have representing the people of Myanmar.”
He added that the UK would “keep up” efforts around diplomacy and sanctions to bring a “change for the better” in the country.
“We want to see an end to the violence, we want to see the military regime return to democracy and the electoral mandate that the government should have, representing the people of Myanmar,” he said.
“We’ve been clear, not just in our targeted sanctions, but our wider measures we are taking to stop UK businesses doing business with conglomerates or businesses controlled by the Tatmadaw [Myanmar armed forces], that we are going to apply pressure that way.”
Mr Blinken said it is “vital” that violence in the country ceases and that prisoners be released so that Myanmar can “return to the path of democracy”.
The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan also featured in the discussion, with Mr Raab saying the UK had received “good consultation” from the US on its decision to remove troops from the country – a process that began over the weekend.
He said: “On Afghanistan, just to be clear from a UK perspective, we do not feel ignored by US partners.
“We have had very good consultation on this and we continued that, we discussed it today.”
He continued: “We certainly see the priority is protecting our troops in the period between now and September, making sure that we preserve the ability to deal with counter-terrorism, the gains that were hard-won in Afghanistan are not lost.
“And also ultimately promoting dialogue and a peace process that benefits all Afghans and leaves Afghanistan as stable as possible, as inclusive as possible.”
Mr Blinken added: “As we worked toward the decision that President Biden made, we spent a good deal of time very actively consulting with our NATO partners and NATO allies.”
Israeli PM Netanyahu: Hamas ‘will pay heavy price’ as violence continues | World News
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Hamas “will pay a heavy price for their belligerence” as the country steps up its attacks on the Gaza Strip.
On Tuesday, the Israeli military destroyed a building used by the militant group, killing at least three militants, as Palestinian rockets continued to fall on parts of Israel.
It is the heaviest fighting between the two enemies since 2014.
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address: “We are at the height of a weighty campaign.
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad paid… and will pay a very heavy price for their belligerence.”
He said Israel would “continue to attack with full force”, adding: “This campaign will take time”.
“With determination, unity and strength, we will restore security to the citizens of Israel.”
Five Israelis, including three women and a child, were killed by rocket fire on Tuesday and early on Wednesday, and dozens of people were injured.
The death toll in Gaza rose to 35 Palestinians, including 10 children, according to the health ministry, with more than 200 people wounded.
The violence began last weekend at the al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism.
Israeli police fired tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinians who threw stones and chairs back at them.
On Monday evening, Hamas began firing rockets from Gaza and the conflict escalated rapidly.
Hamas’ exiled leader, Ismail Haniyeh, blamed Israel, saying: “It’s the Israeli occupation that set Jerusalem on fire, and the flames reached Gaza.”
Hamas said it had fired 210 rockets towards Tel Aviv and its suburbs, where residents had to run into air raid shelters as sirens blared and anti-rocket interceptors were seen overhead on Tuesday.
Homes in Gaza shook under the weight of the Israeli attacks, with at least 30 explosions in just minutes early on Wednesday.
UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland tweeted: “Stop the fire immediately.
“We’re escalating towards a full scale war.
“Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation.
“The cost of war in Gaza is devastating & is being paid by ordinary people. The UN is working with all sides to restore calm.
“Stop the violence now.”
A number of factors have stoked tensions in the decades-long conflict to their worst in years, said Sky’s correspondent Mark Stone earlier this week.
Palestinians were angry at an Israeli police decision, at the start of Ramadan, to barricade the seating area outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.
There is also the issue of Sheikh Jarrah, the East Jerusalem neighbourhood where Palestinian families are fighting a court battle with Jewish settlers who want to take their homes, claiming the land is historically theirs.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it as their own, but most of the international community considers it to be occupied land.
Monday was also Jerusalem Day, marking the moment when Israel took control of the city.
A march by hundreds of nationalist Israelis was changed on Monday evening to avoid going through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.
Duke and Duchess of Sussex announce partnership with Procter & Gamble – a company she once called sexist | US News
Decades after criticising Procter & Gamble as a child, the Duchess of Sussex and her husband have announced a partnership with the firm.
Meghan and Harry’s Archewell Foundation confirmed a long-term relationship with the American multi-national consumer goods company on Tuesday.
It will focus on gender equality, inclusive online spaces, resilience and impact through sport.
As an 11-year-old, Meghan had written to Procter & Gamble to complain about the sexist language used in a TV advert.
Her letter-writing campaign objected to a dish soap commercial which included the line: “Mothers around America are fighting greasy pots and pans”.
She appeared in an interview with Nick News in 1993 to talk about her campaign, saying she was “furious” about the advert.
She added: “When they heard this, the boys in my class started saying: ‘Yeah that’s where women belong – in the kitchen’.”
Meghan successfully lobbied the firm to change the line from “mothers around America” to “people all over America”.
Announcing the partnership, the Archewell website said: “Archewell Foundation believes that with community, and through compassionate service to others, we can unleash systemic cultural change.
“In service of doing this, and building more compassionate communities, Archewell Foundation announced a multi-year global partnership today with Procter & Gamble.”
The website said the partnership would “elevate the voices of adolescent girls” to ensure “their point of view and lived experience is heard at the tables where decisions are made”.
It also vowed to work with men and boys to encourage gender equality.
The foundation said it will build on joint aspirations with P&G, which it worked with in support of Global Citizen’s Vax live concert, in aid of the international COVID-19 vaccination effort.
Procter & Gamble owns brands such as Oral B, Gillette, Pampers and Tampax, and reported net sales in 2019 of $67.7bn (£47.8bn).
On its website, it said: “We’ve also been inspired by the mission of the Archewell Foundation and its founders, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, that with community, and through compassionate service to others, we can drive systemic cultural change, benefiting everyone.”
Harry and Meghan quit as senior working royals in March last year.
Greece: £257,000 reward offered to catch killers who strangled British mother, 20, in her Athens home | World News
A €300,000 (£257,000) reward is being offered by the Greek government to track down burglars who strangled a British woman next to her baby in Athens.
The 20-year-old victim was sleeping with her husband and 11-month-old child when three men broke into their home in the Glyka Nera suburb before dawn after killing the family’s dog, said reports.
The young mother was tied up and strangled, while her 32-year-old husband, a pilot, was bound and gagged.
He survived Tuesday’s “barbaric” attack and managed to loosen his ties before calling police.
The burglars escaped with money and jewellery, while the baby was unharmed.
Greece’s minister responsible for public order, Michalis Chrisochoidis, described the woman’s killing as “particularly heinous”.
“One rarely encounters such barbarity in Greece, in Greek society, even among criminals,” he said.
The victim was born in Greece but had a British passport, according to police, who said she was married to a Greek man.
Two teams of detectives are investigating the deadly incident.
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