Obama Hosting Leaders for G-8, NATO Summits

Posted May 18th, 2012 at 7:00 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama begins four days of high-level diplomacy Friday, starting with the G-8 economic summit at the Camp David presidential retreat outside Washington.

U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon told reporters Thursday the leaders of the Group of Eight nations are expected to discuss global oil markets, energy and climate, the transition in the Middle East and North Africa and the eurozone debt crisis during the two day summit. Mr. Obama has also invited the leaders from the African nations of Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania to the summit to discuss food security on the continent.

Before heading to Camp David, Mr. Obama will welcome new French President Francois Hollande to the White House for their first one-on-one meeting. Mr. Hollande, who was sworn in just this week, has called for a change in Europe's current focus on austerity to address the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. The austerity pact has led to a political standoff in cash-strapped Greece, where voters rejected political parties that agreed to harsh budget cuts in exchange for financial assistance.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Hollande will be joined at Camp David by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the prime mover behind the Eurozone austerity treaty, plus the leaders of Canada, Britain, Italy, Japan and Russia. Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev is attending in place of President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Hollande will also play a central role in the two-day NATO summit that will begin Sunday in Mr. Obama's hometown of Chicago. The new French president has promised to remove all his country's troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year — two years before all NATO troops are scheduled to leave.

Donilon says the meeting of the alliance is an opportunity to discuss the transition of Afghan forces taking the security lead from international forces. He notes the talks will build on progress made and plans the president talked about in a recent visit to Afghanistan.

“Chicago is a critical milestone in the next step towards a responsible ending of this war, towards our achieving, very importantly, our goals in this effort in Afghanistan and really kind of the execution of the strategy that the president laid out in his speech at Bagram.”

He says President Obama will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the sidelines of the talks Sunday. He says there are no plans at the moment to hold a private meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Islamabad closed supply routes to NATO nearly six months ago to protest U.S. airstrikes that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border.

Pakistani officials demanded an unconditional apology for the deadly NATO air strikes. But Washington only offered condolences and Islamabad retaliated by cutting off NATO ground supply routes. The U.S. withdrew as much as $3 billion of promised military aid, as relations with Pakistan deteriorated.