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Prime Minister Blair's Personal Sherpa Maps the G8 Meeting

LONDON, UK, July 4, 2005 (ENS) - For the G8 Summit opening Wednesday at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, host Prime Minister Tony Blair has his own personal Sherpa, so named for the famous Himalayan mountaineering guides.

Sir Michael Jay, permanent under secretary at the British Foreign Office, is the Prime Minister’s Sherpa for the G8 negotiations, and he also is acting as the Prime Minister's personal representative.

Briefing reporters at the Foreign Office Monday, Sir Michael set out the agenda and timetable for the summit.

Surrounded by the tightest security net in Scottish history, the G8 leaders gather on Wednesday evening for an initial dinner. Thursday is devoted to the global economy and climate change, while Friday's discussions will focus on Africa.

Sir Michael

Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head Diplomatic Service, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Sir Michael Jay is Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal Sherpa. (Photo courtesy British Council)
Calling Prime Minister Blair's agenda for the G8 Presidency "ambitious," Sir Michael said the Prime Minister believes "that the two key issues which he has chosen, that is Africa and climate change, are fundamental issues for the world today, and he believes that posterity will expect today’s leaders to have addressed issues which are of such fundamental importance as these two."

The G8 leaders will hold their first working session on Thursday morning, said Sir Michael. Meeting alone, they will focus on the global economy and climate change.

Later Thursday morning, the eight leaders will hold a working session and a working lunch - also on the global economy and climate change - with the leaders of India, China, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa who have been invited by Prime Minister Blair to participate in this discussion.

They will also be joined by the secretary-general of the United Nations and the heads of the World Trade Organization and the International Energy Agency, as well as the president of the World Bank and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"The key question for all of us," Sir Michael said, "is how to reconcile the need to curb emissions, with the need for economic growth, which is why climate change and energy policy are really two sides of the same coin."

The G8 countries account for over 65 percent of global GDP and 47 percent of global CO2 emissions, Sir Michael said, but, he explained "the Prime Minister has always believed that the way forward on climate change has to involve not just the G8, but the world’s other large and fast growing economies too, which is why, as I say, he has invited the leaders of China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa."

On Thursday afternoon, said Sir Michael, there will be discussions on the key foreign policy issues of the day, which will then continue over a dinner on Thursday evening. "I would expect those to focus on the Middle East and related issues, but no doubt cover other issues too," Sir Michael said.

On nuclear proliferation and terrorism, Sir Michael said, "counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism" are both subjects on the agenda for Thursday afternoon or Thursday evening, and he indicated that Iran and North Korea are issues that the leaders are "very likely to discuss."

On Friday, the first discussions will be again amongst the G8 leaders alone and will focus on Africa. This meeting will be followed again by a working session and then a working lunch between the G8 and the seven African leaders who have been invited to the summit - the leaders of South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal and Algeria.

The president of the African Union will be present too, as again will be the secretary general of the United Nations and the heads of the IMF and the World Bank, Sir Michael explained.

Blair Seeks Consensus on Climate Change

On climate change, Sir Michael explained, Prime Minister Blair is aiming for "recognition of the importance of climate change and the need for action to be taken now to ensure that the growth in greenhouse emissions, slows, stops and declines, and that that is necessary if we are to achieve a secure and sustainable future."

Blair

British Prime Minister Tony Blair heads the G8 Presidency this week, and took over the six month rotating European Union Presidency July 1. (Photo courtesy Office of the Prime Minister)
Blair believes "it is extremely important to work with others, including the developing world, to bring that about," Sir Michael said.

The Prime Minister aims "to try and find a way through together as a consensus on the key issue of climate change," said Sir Michael, despite, "real differences of opinion about the analysis, particularly about the science of climate change and how to respond to that challenge."

Having focused the world’s attention on climate change at the G8 summit has already had an impact, Sir Michael said.

"I think it was significant that earlier this month the G8 science academies joined with those in China, India and Brazil to set out conclusions drawn from the most recent evidence of global warming. So I think scientists’ views around the world are converging and we hope that Gleneagles will set the scene for a more concerted global effort in the future," Sir Michael said.

On June 7, the science academies issued a joint statement, concluding that while there will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate, there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring.

Increasing greenhouse gases are causing temperatures to rise, the academies agreed, relying on the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projection that the average global surface temperatures will continue to increase to between 1.4 centigrade degrees and 5.8 centigrade degrees above 1990 levels, by 2100.

"The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions," the academies urged.

"Even if greenhouse gas emissions were stabilised instantly at today’s levels, the climate would still continue to change as it adapts to the increased emission of recent decades. Further changes in climate are therefore unavoidable. Nations must prepare for them," warned the academies. For the full statement of the 11 scientific academies, click here.

African Relations to Be a Partnership

When it comes to Africa, the emphasis by the UK’s G8 Presidency has already had an effect as well, said Sir Michael.

Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo is President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and current chairperson of the African Union. He will attend the G8 meeting on Friday immediately after the annual African Union meeting, which ends in Libya on Thursday. (Photo courtesy African Union)
He cited the agreement by G8 finance ministers in late June on 100 percent multilateral debt relief for 18 countries, most of them in Africa; the setting of an EU timetable to meet the target of 0.7 percent of GDP for foreign aid; and the commitment to double aid to Africa from Japan, Canada, and most recently, the United States.

The G8 leaders will take a "comprehensive approach" to African issues, said Sir Michael, which means the three big issues of "aid, trade and debt," but much more.

It means "an approach which is essentially a partnership with Africa," Sir Michael said, "working with the African Union, focusing on good governance, conflict resolution, peace and security, "investing in people, areas of health and education, and of course growth and investment."

"I think it was in earnest of the Prime Minister’s commitment to Africa that he commissioned the Commission for Africa report, which he did in the spring," said Sir Michael.

But he emphasized that "trade, as always, is an extremely tough issue."

"I think there is the prospect of an agreement on trade," Sir Michael said, although it is difficult "partly because the issues are in themselves exceptionally complex, and there are different views, but also because these discussions are taking place six months before the very important WTO Doha Development round negotiations in December."

Foreign Policy Discussions Will Be Free-Ranging

The discussions on the foreign policy issues will cover whatever the G8 leaders have on their minds, said Sir Michael.

Wolfensohn

James Wolfensohn, immediate past president of the World Bank, is now helping to facilitate Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
"Jim Wolfensohn, who is the Quartet’s envoy for disengagement from Gaza, will be briefing G8 heads on Thursday on his plans, and that will be an important part of the discussions," said Sir Michael.

The United States and its partners in the Middle East diplomatic quartet - Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations - have named Wolfensohn, the immediate past president of the World Bank, as a special envoy to help facilitate Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. He is focused on non-military aspects of the pullout including the disposition of vacated Israeli settlements.

"I want to stress however also that when I say they will want to discuss the key foreign policy issues on their minds, that is exactly the tradition at these G8 summits, people discuss what is on their minds," said Sir Michael. "So to an extent whatever we in the Sherpa process may have carefully prepared for them, does not guarantee that that is what they will be discussing," said Blair's Sherpa.

About his role as a Sherpa, Sir Michael said, "I guess this goes back 25 years. I think it was, no doubt, a kind of nice sense of humor on the part of somebody, probably British, that if you are preparing the way to the summit for your leaders, you need a sherpa to take you there, and carry the baggage. I guess that was the logic of it."

The Sherpas met over the weekend and will be meeting again as everyone arrives at Gleneagles, where the most intense negotiations will take place.

There are, said Sir Michael, "some fairly intense bilateral contacts going on all the time. So the kind of Sherpa preparatory process, it is not just the sort of five or six meetings that you have every 10 days or so, but it is also the process of bilateral and other negotiations which goes on all the time, with some intensity as you reach the final stages of a complex negotiation."

Live 8 Concerts, Marches Having an Influence

The G8 meeting this year is surrounded by a massive popular demonstration of the desire to end poverty in Africa. Ten Live 8 concerts on Saturday in all G8 countries were attended by at least one million people and watched by two billion more.

Geldof

Sir Bob Geldof, who received an honorary knighthood in 1986, was the primary organizer of the Live 8 concerts and served as a commissioner on the Commission for Africa. Here he answers questions at the final press conference of his visit to Ethiopia in May 2003. (Photo courtesy UNICEF UK)
In addition, hundreds of thousands of people marched in Edinburgh on Saturday, all urging the G8 leaders to create immediate and just solutions to African poverty. Environmental and human rights demonstrations elsewhere around the world are timed to coincide with the G8 meeting.

Sir Michael said these demonstrations are being felt by the G8 leaders. "It raises expectations but it also creates a degree of pressure, I don’t think there is any doubt about that," he said.

"Those of us who are engaged in negotiations day by day," he said, "inevitably get very much into the details."

Still, he said, "The combination of dealing at a rather technical level with the complexity of the issues, plus having your sights raised the whole time to some pretty fundamental issues that matter to millions of people has been a powerful combination."

"I think that at the end of it all, I hope and I believe they will be able to say that the efforts that have been made, and the marching that they did, has had an effect on the outcome and therefore has an effect on Africa and that that is positive."

In a public interview on June 30, Prime Minister Blair paid tribute to the musicians who have put on the Live 8 concerts. "They have approached it in a very practical and responsible way," Blair said.

"Bob Geldof was part of the Commission for Africa which was the report that took as many months to write with representatives from the wealthy countries and African countries, and we put it all together. He hasn't simply gone out there and paraded his conscience and said it is terrible, now do something about it. He probably knows as much about this problem as anybody else in the world at the moment. And he has worked at it, and the others, Bono and people, are serious about it, and they are not grandstanding either. They are not just out there saying give us perfection and if you don't you have failed," observed Blair. "They are saying look here are practical things that we can do, now let us try and mobilize support behind it."

The final Live 8 concert, called the Final Push is scheduled for Edinburgh on Wednesday evening as the G8 leaders gather at Gleneagles.

Super-Tight Security

An unprecedented security net surrounding Scotland’s ports, airports and roads is now in operation to prevent terrorists or disruptive protesters from reaching the G8 summit, according to the policeman in charge of the security operation.

Gleneagles

The G8 leaders will meet at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. (Photo courtesy Perth & Kinross Council)
John Vine, the Chief Constable of Tayside Police is the senior officer co-ordinating the largest security operation in Scottish history. He said thousands of officers could form a barrier around Gleneagles should protesters attempt to interrupt the meeting of world leaders. A physical perimeter may also be established around Gleneagles before the summit opens.

"We have a real obligation to facilitate peaceful protest," Vine told "The Scotsman" newspaper, "and the policing of this event has to be a fine balance between preventing trouble and allowing members of the public to express their opinions."

Today, Perth & Kinross Council and Tayside Police said they have made arrangements with the organizers of a protest march to be held in the vicinity of Gleneagles Hotel on Wednesday to enable march participants to arrive in the town of Auchterarder, demonstrate, then depart in safety with minimum disruption to local residents.

Chief Superintendent Matt Hamilton, said, "We are pleased that agreement has been reached for an organized peaceful protest and that restrictions on the numbers of people able to participate reflect that Auchterarder is a small community."

Chief Hamilton said, "Tayside Police is fully prepared to handle the march in a sensitive and proportionate manner to ensure that the needs of all concerned are met."



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