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G7 talks: Trump isolated over Paris climate change deal

  • 28 May 2017

┬áMr Trump described the G7 summit as “tremendously productive”

Leaders of the G7 group of rich nations have failed to agree a statement on climate change.

Six world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord, the world’s first comprehensive deal aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.

However, the US has refused to recommit to the agreement, saying it will make a decision next week.

Mr Trump, who once dismissed global warming as a “hoax”, has previously threatened to pull out of the accord.

This is Mr Trump’s first G7 summit – during his first foreign trip.

G7 leaders from the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan have agreed a statement on fighting terrorism.

‘America first’ and cultural mishaps

Why is there no deal on climate change?

The final communique issued at the G7 summit in Italy said the US “is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics”.

However, the other G7 leaders pledged to “reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the discussion on climate change had been “very unsatisfactory”, adding “we have a situation of six against one”.

Mr Trump tweeted: “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!”

His economic adviser, Gary Cohn, said Mr Trump “came here to learn. He came here to get smart. His views are evolving… exactly as they should be.”

Antonio Guterres: “The agreement doesn’t collapse if a country leaves”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who is also in Sicily for the meeting, told the BBC earlier that the accord would survive regardless of Mr Trump’s position.

Analysis by James Reynolds, BBC News, Taormina

There is a new fault line within the G7. An informal G6 (Canada, Japan, the UK, France, Germany, Italy) faces an informal G1 – the US.

The drafters of the summit’s final communique had no way of hiding the division which exists on climate change.

The statement noted simply that six countries remained committed to the Paris agreement while the US was in the process of evaluating its participation.

In his closing news conference, Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni was unable to hide his disappointment with the lack of agreement. On this subject, the G1 acts alone.

What about trade?

The G7 has been a champion of free trade since its inception.

The leaders’ last summit in Japan last year stressed the need to avoid protectionism. But this was before the election of Donald Trump and his campaign slogan of “America First”.

German weekly Der Spiegel quoted Mr Trump as saying in a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday that Germans were “very bad” regarding car exports to the US.

However, all G7 leaders agreed to back the final communique which pledged to “fight protectionism”, while acknowledging that “trade has not always worked to the benefit of everyone”.

How about migration?

Leaders from Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Niger and Nigeria took part in the discussions in Sicilian town Taormina earlier on Saturday.

Italy is keen to encourage the world’s wealthiest nations to support African countries in developing their economies, so fewer young people will feel forced to make the dangerous journey to Europe.

However, a diplomat told Reuters that other Italian proposals – which looked to highlight the benefits of migration and promote a major initiative on food security – were dismissed ahead of the summit.

US President Donald Trump and Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou (C-R) shake hands
Trump has been tough on migration, trade and climate change

According to the source, Mr Trump’s administration was unwilling to highlight benefits of human mobility, Reuters reported.

A statement originally intended to be separate and run into several pages has now been condensed to two paragraphs.

So far this year, more than 1,500 migrants are thought to have drowned in the Mediterranean.

How has Mr Trump’s trip gone?

Mr Trump described his first foreign trip as “a truly historic week for our country” and said he was “more hopeful than ever that nations of many faiths… can join together in common cause” in fighting terrorism.

He is now returning to the US, where his approval ratings are low.

Donald Trump waves as he stands in Sicily next to his wife MelaniaMr Trump, pictured with wife Melania, is no doubt hoping for positive reviews of his first overseas trip

US media have already been casting judgement:

  • Conservative daily The Washington Times said Mr Trump “neared the end of his first foreign trip Thursday by largely fulfilling a transformative agenda that was more ambitious than anything Mr Obama tried overseas during his first year in office”. It went on to note “the president has made no major gaffes on the trip”
  • But James P. Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state for Bill Clinton, was far less forgiving. Writing in Politico Magazine, he described Mr Trump as doing little more than “muddling” through the engagements. Mr Rubin went on to say that “despite the highly staged events designed to pump up Trump’s image, the new administration has done nothing on this trip to restore respect and admiration for US international leadership”
  • Broadcaster ABC News, meanwhile, chose to focus on the President’s “awkward body language moments” – including pushing the Montenegrin prime minister out the way.

Headlines in the US continue to be dominated by alleged Russian meddling in November’s election, and there are whisperings of discontent within his own party over policy decisions.

Where else has Trump been this week?

Making his first foreign trip as president, he came to Sicily from Brussels where he had held talks with EU and Nato leaders.

At Nato headquarters, he complained that many Nato member states were not spending enough on defence, expecting the US to bear the burden.

Before that, he visited Pope Francis in Rome and toured the Middle East – first Saudi Arabia, then Israel and the Palestinian territories.

BBC News

Inside Saudi Arabia’s rehab centre for jihadists

  • 26 May 2017
The Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef Centre for Rehabilitation and Care

Lined up against the wall of a tent, their backs against embroidered cushions, electronic tags around their ankles, the nine Yemeni al-Qaeda prisoners fidgeted nervously, folding and unfolding their hands.

Most of these men, who we were not allowed to photograph, have spent the last 15 years of their lives incarcerated in US military detention in Guantanamo Bay. The most recent arrived here in April.

They were picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2007 and eventually released by the US to Saudi custody, on the understanding they would be deradicalised here before re-entering society as free men.

So what, I asked them this week, did they make of President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his speech on Islam and the need for religious tolerance which they watched on TV? There were smiles and knowing glances exchanged.

“I don’t know if he was being sincere,” said one, touching his chest. “I would have to check his heart to see if he was telling the truth!”

The Prince Mohammed Rehab Centre
The Prince Mohammed Rehab Centre is a halfway house between prison and release back into society

“There were many words,” said the oldest amongst them, his grey, wispy beard trailing down to his chest, “but we will judge him by his actions.”

Another made the point that there was now a different US administration in the White House from the one (George W Bush’s) that sent them to Guantanamo Bay.

It was of course, a somewhat unnatural encounter. The Yemeni returnees looked uncomfortable, having been shepherded into the tent to meet our delegation of Western academics and journalists, watched over by the Saudi staff.

Every one of them would have been all too aware that their words were being carefully monitored for any hints of violent intent. Their imminent release depended on it.

Even when that day comes, they will only be released into the city of Riyadh since their own country, Yemen, is in the grip of war and it would be all too easy for them to be swept back up into the waiting ranks of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The swimming pool at the rehab centre
Inmates have access to sports facilities as part of their preparation for return to society

The Saudi authorities are keen to show the world this rehab centre for jihadists, known officially as the Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef Centre for Counselling and Care.

Founded in 2004, following a series of devastating al-Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia, it is intended to be a halfway house between prison and open society.

Most of its inmates are Saudis, convicted under anti-terrorist laws. It prepares ex-convicts for life on the outside and tries to purge them of any violent ideas.

So does it work? Mostly.

There is certainly no other such rehab centre anywhere in the world that is attempting this kind of psychological detoxification on such a large scale.

More than 3,300 inmates have “graduated” from the centre since 2005, according to the staff, including 123 who have been in Guantanamo Bay. The success rate, they said, is 80% with the remaining 20% returning to violence. (A similar scheme I visited in Yemen in 2003 had a significantly lower success rate).

Inmates spend a minimum of three months at the centre before being assessed to see if they ready for release, Their overall programme is divided into three parts:

  • A counselling phase, which takes place while they are still in prison and before they arrive at the centre
  • Rehabilitation (“ta’heel” in Arabic) comprising cognitive behaviour programmes, art, culture, religious and sports activities
  • After care. This continues after their release into society

“Welcome to the oasis of wisdom,” said Dr Hamid Al-Shayri, a sociologist from King Saud University. “This is where we try to steer them away from their deviant path so they no longer present a danger to society.”

He said his staff sit with the inmates for several hours a day, but added: “It’s not an easy task to get people to stop hating society and their families.”

Art therapist Dr Bader Al-Razin
Art therapist Dr Bader Al-Razin explains the therapeutic benefits of art for jihadists

Art therapy plays a big role in their rehabilitation, according to their art teacher, Dr Badr Al-Razin. He told me that when they first arrive, many of the ex-convicts want to paint crude, violent images, often in red, but over time their images soften and become gentler.

Religious scholars are on hand at all times, men with a profound knowledge of Islam, who try to use this to explain why the aims and actions of violent jihadists are “haram” (forbidden).

So how, we asked the Yemeni returnees from Guantanamo Bay, do they feel about re-entering society after all this time?

“We have changed,” said the oldest one. “We consider ourselves as new individuals now, thanks to this place.

“Sure, we hated the people who mistreated us in Guantanamo Bay but through the programmes here we were able to overcome these feelings. My worry now is that people in the community will not accept us.

“And meanwhile the world has changed so much since we’ve been away, we may not recognise it.”

BBC News

Gregg Allman, rock trailblazer, dies at 69

  • 28 May 2017
Gregg AllmanThe lead singer of the Allman Brothers died at home in Georgia

Rock trailblazer Gregg Allman, a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, has died age 69.

Allman died at home in Savannah, Georgia, on Saturday, his official website announced.

The musician first found fame in the band he started with older brother Duane in the late 1960s.

In its heyday, the band was a staple on radio stations and released albums ranked among the best in rock history.

Allman, the band’s lead singer and keyboardist, wrote several of their biggest hits, including Whipping Post, It’s Not My Cross to Bear and Midnight Rider.

Among The Allman Brothers Band’s best-known songs is Jessica, from 1973, which was used as the opening theme tune to Top Gear.

After news of his death was announced, singer Cher, to whom he was married in the 1970s, tweeted “words are impossible”, before sharing a picture of the two together.

A picture of Cher and Allman togetherTWITTER/@CHER

The band’s first three albums made them stars, but then tragedy struck when Duane – whose talent as a guitarist was revered in the rock industry – died in a motorcycle accident aged 24 in 1971.

A little more than a year later, bassist Berry Oakley was also killed in a motorcycle accident.

Allman would go on to struggle with drug abuse, becoming a heroin addict in the 1970s.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, but said in his 2012 memoir My Cross to Bear he was too drunk to enjoy the ceremony.

After his death, singer Cher, who he was married to in the 1970s, tweeted “words are impossible”, before sharing a picture of the two together.

Allman was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1999 and underwent a liver transplant in 2010.

The father-of-five’s cause of death was not immediately revealed.