Canada’s G-7 presidency: A ‘progressive agenda’ at risk

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Updated 30 December 2017

Canada’s G-7 presidency: A ‘progressive agenda’ at risk

MONTREAL: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promises a “progressive agenda” for Canada’s G-7 presidency in 2018, but talks may once again hit a snag over climate change after the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement.
For Justin Trudeau, this presidency comes at a time when his government has been struggling with a difficult renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the US and Mexico, which was demanded by US President Donald Trump amid rising American protectionism.
Gender equality, climate change and economic growth “that works for everyone” are among Ottawa’s top priorities for the meeting of the world’s largest advanced economies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.
Trudeau said in a statement that he wants the talks to focus on “finding real, concrete solutions” to these issues.
The leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations will meet June 8 and 9 at Le Manoir Richelieu in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, a popular tourist destination 150km northeast of Quebec City.
In this idyllic setting between the sea and the mountains, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, global warming once again promises to be a bone of contention, as it was at the last summit in Italy, according to John Kirton, director of the G-7 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Trump was a climate pariah at the talks in Taormina, announcing days later Washington’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
In an attempt to avoid fresh tensions, Canada has proposed lumping climate change in to a broader discussion that would also include “oceans and clean energy,” according to the prime minister’s office.
Canada “quite properly” framed this segment of the talks around oceans, Kirton told AFP, noting the rise in sea levels and major recent storm damage in the US and the Caribbean.
“Every big city in the United States, except for Chicago, is on a coast,” making them “vulnerable” to climate impacts, he said.
“The mood (in regards to climate) in the United States is changing at the state level and that will quickly move up into Congress as the (2018) midterm elections approach,” Kirton predicted.
“So, (that battle) is not over yet.”
“Trump really likes Trudeau,” added Kirton, suggesting Trudeau has an opening to “find a way to change Trump’s mind” on the Paris Agreement.
Most hope a deal on a new NAFTA will be reached before the G-7 Summit, which would allow Trudeau to focus the discussion on gender and environmental issues while also seeking to sway Trump on climate.
“The only globalization that Trump has been able to stop is by not doing anything more for the United States,” Kirton said, noting the Canada-EU free trade agreement came into force this year.
“The rest of the world is just going on and doing a lot.”
North Korea, which he called the “second-greatest global extinction threat after climate change,” will also be a hot topic for the leaders.
Canada and the US will co-host North Korea crisis talks in Vancouver with foreign ministers from 16 countries in January.
Kirton is also “optimistic” that Canada’s push to include gender parity clauses in trade pacts and security arrangements will bear fruit.
“Ivanka Trump sold her dad on that,” he said.


Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

Updated 20 September 2020

Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

  • There have been conflicting reports from lawmakers and residents about number of fatalities
  • Taliban says none of its fighters killed in attack

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry pledged on Sunday to probe “allegations” of at least 12 civilians being killed in an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters in the northern Kunduz province a day earlier.
The pledge followed inconsistencies about the number of casualties, with the insurgent group saying that none of its men had died in the attack.
“The Taliban were the target, and 30 of them were killed. Initial reports indicate no harm was inflicted upon civilians, but we are probing reports by locals about civilian casualties. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces take allegations of civilian harm seriously, and these claims will be investigated,” Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the defense ministry in Kabul, told Arab News.
He added that the ministry would “share any details” about civilian casualties “once the probe is over.”
If confirmed, Saturday’s airstrike in the Khan Abad district, which lies nearly 350 km from Kabul and is mostly controlled by the Taliban, will be the latest in a series of air raids killing civilians in several parts of the country.
It follows a week after crucial intra-Afghan talks between the government and Taliban officials began in Doha, Qatar on Saturday, to end the protracted war and plan a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan.
There were conflicting accounts from civilians and lawmakers in the area about the incident, with two provincial council members, Ghulam Rabbani Rabbani and Sayed Yusuf, saying that at least 12 civilians had died in Saturday’s air raid.
“Since the area is under Taliban’s control, we have not been able to find out exactly how the civilians were killed,” Rabbani told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Nilofar Jalali, a legislator from Kunduz, offered another version of the attack, which she said “hit a residential area before sunrise when people were still in their bed.”
“Children and women are among the dead, and 18 civilians have also been wounded. I informed the defense minister about it; he said he will check and get back to me, but has not,” she told Arab News. However, Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the reports in a statement on Sunday, saying that “no fighter of the group was killed,” before placing the number of civilian deaths at 23.
Kunduz and other parts of the country have witnessed an escalation in attacks by both the government and the Taliban in recent weeks, despite their negotiators participating in the Qatar talks which are part of a US-facilitated process following 19 years of conflict in the country — Washington’s longest war in history.
The Qatar discussions are based on a historic accord signed between Washington and the Taliban in February this year which, among other things, paves the way for the complete withdrawal of US-led troops from the country by next spring, in return for a pledge from the Taliban not to allow use Afghanistan to harm any country’s, including US, interests.
Kabul’s negotiators in Qatar are pushing the Taliban to declare a cease-fire, while the Taliban say it can be included in the agenda and that both sides must first ascertain “the real cause” of the war.
Some analysts believe that while delegates of the parties are struggling to agree over the mechanism and agenda of the talks in Qatar, their fighters in Afghanistan are “focusing on military tactics to capture grounds” so that they can use it as a “bargaining chip” at the negotiation table.
“Both sides think that if they have more territory then they can argue their case from a position of strength during the talks and use it as leverage,” Shafiq Haqpal, an analyst and a former university teacher, told Arab News.
“The sides have not yet agreed on the mechanism of the talks despite the Qatar talks, which began on the 12th of September. So, this is an indication that things are not going the right way politically, and both sides are trying their luck on the battlefield here.”