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G-20 summit: The highlights

July 8, 2017 5:03 PM
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G-20 summit: The highlights

HAMBURG (AFP) - US President Donald Trump's first Group of 20 summit wrapped up on Saturday (July 8) in Germany, marked by violent clashes outside and political discord inside.

Here follows a summary of the main news from the two-day meeting of the leaders of the world's 19 top economies and the European Union in Hamburg.

The most eagerly awaited meeting was Trump's first face-to-face encounter with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday lasting two and a quarter hours.

Putin said that Trump is "very different" than on television and that Washington appears to have become "more pragmatic" on the Syrian conflict, in which the US and Russia back opposing sides.

"There is every reason to believe that we will be able to at least partially re-establish the level of cooperation that we need," Putin said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the two "connected very quickly" with "very clear positive chemistry".

Commentators pored over the images for telltale signs of who came out on top.

"Look at Putin's thumb. He is controlling the situation, setting its tone," Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda said.

According to Tillerson, the subject that took up most time was Syria but they also had a "robust and lengthy exchange" about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to hold the summit in Hamburg, a port city once home to The Beatles and renowned as a hotbed of anarchism, quickly looked unwise.

The 20,000 police on duty struggled to cope in running battles with hundreds of anti-capitalist demonstrators torching cars, smashing windows and throwing objects.

Late into the night on Thursday and Friday, the acrid smell of smoke and tear gas hung in the area as police sirens screamed and helicopters thundered overhead.

The protesters managed to confine the US First Lady to her guesthouse on Friday, slashed the car tyres of the Canadian delegation and delayed other dignitaries.

Bild, the influential German daily, called it a "debacle" for Merkel. Trump though praised the chancellor for a "fantastic job".

Within the summit, Trump's "America First" strategy to protect US companies from outside competition caused divisions with traditional Western allies.

This necessitated a compromise in the final summit statement which committed G-20 members to combating protectionism but also permits "legitimate trade defence instruments".

On climate change too, the other 19 had to make room for Trump following his announcement on June 1 of a withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The final communique said that G-20 members "take note" of this decision and also gave the green light for the US to be able to continue to export and promote fossil fuels.

The US "will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally-determined contributions," the statement said.


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