You can always leave it to the French to stick their finger in your eye, after all of the members of the G8 composed a united statement on the Middle-East crisis.
St Petersburg, Russia – Group of Eight leaders told Hezbollah militants on Sunday that they must free abducted Israeli soldiers and immediately halt attacks on Israel to end an upsurge in Middle East violence.
In a statement from their summit in Russia, G8 leaders urged Israel to exercise “utmost restraint” in its offensive in Lebanon, but blamed the crisis squarely on “extremist elements” and put the onus on Hezbollah to stop it.
A carefully-worded text said an end to Israeli military operations and withdrawal of forces from Gaza were other conditions needed to “lay the foundation for a more permanent solution”.
But it echoed support for Israel’s right to self-defence voiced by the United States, the Jewish state’s main backer, and made no reference to criticism by G8 powers France and the European Union that Israel’s bombing of Lebanon was excessive.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, the summit host, had on Saturday accused Israel of pursuing “other wider goals”, but differences between Washington and its G8 partners were largely papered over in the statement.
The Middle East crisis forced its way to the top of G8 leaders’ deliberations, relegating to the sidelines the formal agenda of securing energy supplies, boosting world trade talks and addressing the crisis over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos,” said the text hammered out by the leaders of the world’s richest nations.
France’s Jacques Chirac undercut the well-crafted G8 unity, telling reporters leaders had “expressed extreme reservations about the disproportionate character of the Israeli reactions”. But there was no mention of this in the G8 text and US officials dismissed Chirac’s comment.