Zelensky expected at G7 after winning F-16 case

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to arrive in Japan on Saturday for a surprise participation in the G7 summit, where he will notably meet with his US counterpart Joe Biden, paving the way for future deliveries of fighter jets sought by Ukraine .

He is due to land in Hiroshima on Saturday, a diplomatic source learned from AFP. The Japanese foreign ministry confirmed he would attend meetings on Sunday with leaders of the G7 and other countries invited to the summit.

Mr Zelensky is due to arrive from Saudi Arabia, where he presented his case at Friday’s Arab League summit to “some” countries that he says are “turning a blind eye” to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The “best spokesman” for Ukraine’s cause “is the Ukrainian president himself”, estimated a French diplomatic source, while Paris provided a French plane to take him to Saudi Arabia and then to Japan.

– “Historic” decision –

Joe Biden “can’t wait” to meet “face-to-face” with his Ukrainian counterpart on the sidelines of a summit of the seven most industrialized democracies, his national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Saturday. They will discuss the “practical implementation” of the US decision on the fighter jets.

Family photo of G7 leaders during a visit to Itsukushima shrine in Hiroshima, Japan, May 19, 2023 (Pool/AFP – Stephen Rousseau)

Mr. Zelensky’s bilateral meetings are also planned, in particular with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The White House said on Friday that Mr. Biden had overcome his reluctance, adding that he was prepared to allow other countries to supply Kiev with fighter jets, the American-made F-16. A “historic” decision, praised by the Ukrainian president.

Jake Sullivan confirmed that Washington now supports a joint initiative by its allies to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s. During these long months of training, the Westerners would decide on the schedule for the delivery of the planes, their numbers and the countries that would provide them.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is in Japan, said, “The United Kingdom will work with the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to provide Ukraine with the air warfare capability it needs.” Emmanuel Macron also said he was ready to start training Ukrainian pilots on Monday.

F-16 fighter jet (AFP - Valentin Rakowski, Sophie Ramis)
F-16 fighter jet (AFP – Valentin Rakowski, Sophie Ramis)

While his country prepares for a major counteroffensive against Moscow, Volodymyr Zelensky has just returned from a tour of Europe where he again requested these fighters.

But so far, the West, led by the United States, has resisted these demands, citing the risk of escalation of the conflict and saying it was not a priority.

Mr Sullivan assured that US doctrine had “not changed”. The arms delivery “follows the requirements of the conflict”, he pleaded.

– China, another major G7 topic –

He recognized that the F-16s were part of the equipment Kiev would need “in the future” “to be able to deter and defend against any Russian aggression”, beyond immediate needs related to terrorism. Week by Kyiv.

G7 leaders during a lunch marking the opening of the summit in Hiroshima, Japan May 19, 2023 (JIJI PRESS/AFP - JAPAN POOL)
G7 leaders during a lunch marking the opening of the summit in Hiroshima, Japan May 19, 2023 (JIJI PRESS/AFP – JAPAN POOL)

The White House reiterated the US position that, through its military assistance, “the United States does not facilitate or support attacks on Russian soil.”

On Friday, leaders at the Hiroshima summit announced new sanctions “to deny Russia G7 technologies, industrial equipment and services that support its war enterprise”.

If Mr Zelensky becomes the summit’s dominant theme, the G7 leaders must also agree on a common position in the face of China’s rise in economic, diplomatic and military power, against a backdrop of rising tensions between Washington and China . Beijing.

On Saturday, the heads of state and government of the Group of 7 (the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada) were due to discuss “economic pressure” often attributed to Beijing, And the necessary diversification of keys was discussed. sector and supply chain to be less dependent on China in particular.

An EU official acknowledged, “What we did with China for more than twenty years, encouraging its development, was right, but maybe we should have done more when it came to strategic goods, supply chains and[these]elements.” Should have been more careful.”

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