17 May 2012

Africa: Obama Hosts 2012 G8 and NATO Summits

Washington — President Obama will host the 2012 Group of Eight (G8) Summit of advanced economies at the Maryland presidential retreat, Camp David, to discuss the global economy and the current situation in Europe and will host the 28-member NATO Summit in Chicago for talks on defense and security cooperation, including the transition in Afghanistan, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon says.

The G8 Summit is set for May 18-19, and the NATO Summit for May 20-21. The G8 consists of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States. All but Japan and Russia are also members of the NATO alliance, though Russia participates in the NATO-Russia Council.

"The two summits really do underscore and are an embodiment of American leadership on a range of global challenges and advancing several overarching U.S. interests: making the international architecture work effectively in a transformational world; second, revitalizing our core alliances; and, three, really advancing our strategies in the war in Afghanistan in a responsible fashion," Donilon told journalists at a May 17 White House briefing.

"And as a result of our engagement in bilateral, multilateral levels over the course of the administration, we're leading in both of these forums, and I think we'll see during the course of this weekend real progress made on the goals that I just talked about," he added.

Donilon said the G8 leaders will meet on the evening of May 18 for a broad discussion and will consider the range of options they have for addressing pressing security and economic issues. Some of the topics that are expected to be discussed at the traditional working dinner: Iran's efforts to build a nuclear bomb, North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the easing of sanctions on Burma and its transition toward democracy, and Syria, he added. The next day will focus closely on the global economy, as well as the economic stresses in the European Union and the comprehensive approach to managing the situation.

Following those talks, the G8 leaders will hold separate discussions on energy and climate issues, global food security, Afghanistan's economic needs, and the political and security evolution occurring in the Middle East and North Africa, Donilon said.

The presidency of the G8 rotates among the eight member-nations annually, and besides hosting the annual summit the host country also sets the agenda for the meetings. In addition to working dinners and meetings, the G8 also invites nations from other regions to deal with specific security and economic issues. Obama has asked the leaders of the African nations of Benin, Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania to attend meetings to discuss agricultural issues and food security, Donilon said.

Donilon said that the G8 meetings, though an official summit of world leaders, tend to be more informal gatherings in which the eight leaders discuss a wide range of political, economic and security issues in a relatively intimate setting, less structured and offering more give-and-take. It is why Camp David was selected as the meeting site, he added.

The global economy, still recovering from the 2007-2009 recession, has been buffeted by wide swings in oil prices, financial crises in Europe and slowly recovering employment. And the United States, under a National Export Initiative launched by Obama, has been trying to shift a largely consumer-dominated economy to one more balanced with a broader and substantial export sector.

"The United States welcomes the evolving discussion and debate in Europe about the imperative for jobs and growth," Donilon said. "The United States has an extraordinarily significant stake in the outcome of the economic discussions in Europe and the steps that are taken in Europe." The European Union is the United States' largest trading partner, he added.

Obama leaves for Chicago May 19 where he will host 61 nations and several international organizations for the NATO Summit.

"NATO is the cornerstone alliance for the United States in terms of its ability to advance its international interests," Donilon said. One of the crucial priorities of the administration has been to strengthen its relationships with an array of alliances, he said, and NATO is a part of that effort.

Donilon said Obama will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai early on May 20 before the main summit begins because the course of the security transition that involves NATO allies and others in Afghanistan will be a significant focus of the alliance talks.

The international alliance in Afghanistan is beginning a gradual transition process in which the Afghan National Army assumes an increasing role for the country's security against a Taliban insurgency.

"What this summit is about is the next steps on that transition project, that transition till the end of 2014 and beyond," he added.

That process began with the 2010 Lisbon NATO Summit, and the members have been following that strategy, which calls for the International Security Assistance Force to turn over increasing responsibility to Afghans and a full transition so that the combat role is over by the end of 2014.

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