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G7 Leaders Talk Tough on Russia

BRUSSELS ( The Deal) -- Group of Seven leaders meeting in Brussels this week called on Russia to recognize the results of the recent election in Ukraine, withdraw all remaining troops on the border with Ukraine and stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border -- or face increased targeted sanctions.

"We are united in condemning the Russian Federation's continuing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, and actions to de-stabilize eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and must stop," G7 leaders said a joint declaration.

U.S. President Obama and his allies in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. gathered in Brussels Wednesday and Thursday in a meeting dominated by Ukraine and energy, also brought to the forefront by the Ukraine crisis since Russia supplies nearly a third of Europe's gas.

It was the second time in as many months that the G7 met without Russia, in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions in Crimea. It was also the first-ever G7 summit in Brussels, which hosted its first EU-U.S. summit earlier this year.

At the latest summit, policy makers made it clear that they would be watching Putin closely in coming weeks, and if diplomacy doesn't work, they would have no qualms about intensifying targeted sanctions -- as well to implement "significant additional restrictive measures ... should events so require."

"We stand ready to take further action if that's necessary," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, underscoring Europe's special responsibility to support Ukraine with financial and technical as one of its immediate neighbors.
In addition, he said the EU aims to sign the remaining parts of the association agreement with Ukraine as quickly as possible, for closer economic and political ties between both sides.

In briefings with the press after the meetings, Obama said the U.S. and its allies were "in lock-step," while across the hall German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were "no differences whatsoever" among G7 allies.

Over the next few weeks, the U.S. and its allies will be watching Putin closely while continuing to press for a diplomatic solution. 
They will have a chance to do that, in fact, in the next 24 hours, with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Holland and German Chancellor Merkel all scheduled to hold bi-laterals with Putin in France.

Putin will join them in Friday's ceremony in Normandy commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

While it's unclear whether Obama will have a private sit-down with Putin, he said if given the chance he'll repeat the same message that came out of the summit: "The G7 nations are ready to impose additional costs on Russie. He also warned that sectoral sanctions would be "broader, more significant," and "will inevitably hit Russia much more than it would hit Europe."

The global economy was also high on the agenda, with leaders pledging to take further steps to support strong, sustainable and balanced growth, reaffirming their commitment to keep markets open and fight all forms of protectionism, and build resilient banks while ending too-big-too-fail in the wake of the financial crisis.

Asked about whether the U.S. would give into French concerns about a possible hefty criminal fine against Paris-based lender BNP Paribas, Obama insisted that it's a tradition in the U.S. that the president "does not meddle in prosecutions." He also emphasized that "the relationship between the United States and France has never been stronger," and that there is intense cooperation "on a whole range of issues."

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