Canada's prime minister has said that Russia should not be readmitted to the G7 as long as Vladimir Putin remains in power. Ahead of a G7 summit in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has echoed Stephen Harper's statement.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper used an interview before his last major foreign trip before facing the voters in a general election, to stress Ottawa's opposition to Russia being allowed to rejoin Western leaders around the G7 table.
"I don't think Russia under Vladimir Putin belongs in the G7. Period," Harper told the Associated Press. "Canada would very, very strongly oppose Putin ever sitting around that table again. It would require consensus to bring Russia back and that consensus will just not happen."
The G7 suspended Russia from the grouping of leading industrialized nations following its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea last March, but has not ruled out a possible return under changed circumstances.
Harper, who is to visit Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk before heading to Bavaria for the G7 summit, said there was no room for conciliation with the Kremlin in light of the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its alleged support of pro-Russia separatists fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine.
"This is a country that has shown a willingness to invade its neighbors, to actually seize territory that does not belong to it, and so I don't think we should take this escalation of a hostile military posture lightly. It needs to be treated seriously," said Harper, whose country is home to more than one million people of Ukrainian heritage.
Part of this "hostile military posture" is a major increase in Russian military planes flying close to Western European and North American airspace. The Associated Press cited an unnamed Canadian government official who said that the number of long-range Russian bomber controls near North American airspace had more than doubled in 2014 to 52, from 23 in 2012 and 2013.
This included one incident last December, a day after Poroshenko addressed the House of Commons in Ottawa, in which two Canadian CF-18s were scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu-95 bombers off the country's coast.
Merkel: dialogue with Moscow, just not in the G7
Tthe host of this year's G7 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agrees with Harper about the fact that there is no quick road back to the grouping for Russia under Putin.
"Russian participation at the moment is inconceivable," the chancellor said in an interview with the DPA news agency. "The G7 is a group of states that share values like democracy and the rule of law… By contrast, Russia's annexation of the Crimea was an infringement of international law."
"Naturally we must, and want to, continue to work together with Russia. We cannot solve certain conflicts at all, such as the one in Syria, without Russia," the chancellor said. "For that reason I maintain regular contact with Vladimir Putin."
This year's two-day summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations is to be held at a castle in the Bavarian Alps, Schloss Elmau, beginning on Sunday. Chancellor Merkel will be playing host to Harper, as well as the leaders of the US, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan.
pfd/msh (AP, dpa)