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Who’s in the group, what the name means and the summit in Hiroshima explained

The first day of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, is under way as leaders of seven of the world’s most powerful democracies gather to discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine, Beijing’s escalating threats against Taiwan and other matters.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will join the discussions in person on Sunday, it was confirmed this morning, with discussions about a proposal for a Ukraine peace summit on the agenda.

Explaining the decision for the president to travel to the summit, a Ukrainian security official said: “Very important things will be decided there and it is therefore the presence of our president that is absolutely essential in order to defend our interests.”

Zelensky is also due to address the summit virtually at Friday’s meeting to give an update on battlefield conditions.

Leaders at the first day of the G7 Summit (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
Leaders on the first day of the G7 Summit (Photo:The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

It comes after the gathered leaders agreed on more sanctions on Moscow.

In a statement released on the first morning of the summit, they said: “We are renewing our commitment to provide the financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support Ukraine requires for as long as it takes.

“We are imposing further sanctions and measures to increase the costs to Russia and those who are supporting its war effort. We are also building on the success of our efforts to ensure that Russia is no longer able to weaponise the availability of energy against the world.”

The summit takes place over three days. But what is the G7, and what will the summit achieve?

Who’s in the G7 and what does the name mean?

The G7 stands for the Group of Seven, and is made up of the world’s largest so-called advanced economies.

The seven nations are:

  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan

Formed in March 1973, the group was initially known as the “Library Group”, due to the first meeting being held in the library of the White House.

Only the US, UK, France and West Germany were involved in the first meeting. Japan was added later that year, forming the “Group of Five”, before Italy joined in 1975 and Canada was added the following year.

Russia was added to form the G8 in 1998, but was excluded in 2014 after it invaded Crimea.

The wider G20 group includes China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa and others.

The European Union has participated fully in the G7 since 1981 as a “non-enumerated” member.

Summits of the G7 take place annually and typically involve discussions about a wide range of issues, including economic policy, security, climate change and energy.

Presidency of the group rotates annually, with the president responsible for setting the agenda for the summit and arranging logistics for it.

This year is the turn of Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, whose decision to host the summit in Hiroshima – his hometown – underscores a determination to put nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at the top of the agenda.

On Friday morning he welcomed arriving leaders at the Hiroshima Peace Park and Memorial Museum, which commemorates victims of the nuclear attack on the city on 6 August 1945.

TOPSHOT - Heads of the G7 nations look toward the Atomic Bomb Dome (behind) as they visit the Peace Memorial Park as part of the G7 Leaders' Summit in Hiroshima on May 19, 2023. (Photo by JAPAN POOL / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo by JAPAN POOL/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
Heads of the G7 nations look toward the Atomic Bomb Dome on a visit to the Peace Memorial Park at the G7 Leaders’ Summit (Photo: Jiji Press/AFP via Getty Images)

Sunak is the first British prime minister to visit Hiroshima, the site of the world’s first nuclear attack whose death toll reached 140,000.

The leaders laid wreaths on podiums in front of the memorial and took part in group ceremony to plant a cherry blossom sapling.

What’s on the agenda for the G7 summit in Hiroshima?

Russia’s war on Ukraine will be a major topic over the weekend. An EU official has also confirmed that a proposal for a Ukraine peace summit will be discussed.

On the first day of the summit, leaders reaffirmed their commitment “to stand together against Russia’s illegal unjustifiable, and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine”, according to a statement, and announced new sanctions.

Rishi Sunak, the UK Prime Minister, told the BBC he hoped more countries would sanction Russia.

“I’m hopeful and confident that our partner countries will follow as they have done when we’ve done this previously,” Sunak said. “That will make the sanctions more effective and ensure that Russia pays a price for its illegal activity.”

The summit will also focus on Beijing’s escalating threats against Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island Beijing claims as its own, and ways to reduce Western democracies’ economic and supply-chain dependency on China.

Leaders will also address the rise of so-called Global South nations, including many former colonies of Western powers with varied views on and ties to Russia and China.

The G7 is expected to offer these countries more support in health, food security and infrastructure to develop closer ties.

This year, the leaders of Australia, Brazil, Comoros, Cook Islands, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam are invited to the summit as Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, stresses the importance of reaching out to developing countries in the Global South and US allies and partners.

The invitations to leaders outside the G7 are meant to extend co-operation to a broader range of countries.

What will Zelensky say to G7 leaders?

Mr Zelensky is due to attend the summit on Sunday, where he is expected to reiterate his calls for a “jets coalition” to help push back Russian troops.

In recent days he has visited many Western allies to lay the groundwork for his request, saying he ideally wants a commitment to provide combat jets.

The UK has promised to help train pilots, but Mr Zelensky will be looking for further commitments.

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