EXCLUSIVE: Harper out of step with other G7 leaders on meeting Putin
WATCH: In an exclusive interview Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with Global’s Chief Political Correspondent Tom Clark about his foreign policy stance and his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The full interview airs Sunday on The West Block.
While other G7 leaders softened their stances towards Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper hardened his line.
“I’m not meeting with Mr. Putin and neither is President Obama,” Harper said in an exclusive interview airing Sunday on The West Block with Tom Clark.
But Harper appeared caught off guard. Shortly after his interview with Clark, the White House and the Kremlin both confirmed U.S. President Barack Obama met with Putin briefly on the sidelines of a leaders’ lunch in Normandy, France.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Obama and Putin had exchanged views about the situation in Ukraine and the crisis in the eastern region of the country, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting pro-Russian insurgents.
“Putin and Obama spoke for the need to end violence and fighting as quickly as possible,” Peskov said.
Other world leaders including French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko also met with Putin while attending D-Day ceremonies in Normandy, France.
Harper said the issue of whether to meet with Putin was discussed at length at G7 meetings in Brussels, Belgium just days before.
“I think what we all agreed is that in meetings with Mr. Putin, the messages should be very clear and only those messages should be delivered,” he said. “And those messages are very straightforward: get out of occupied territory, stop fomenting violence and other provocative behaviour, and recognize and work with the new government of Ukraine on the economy and on trade, and on things that unite people.”
Harper went on to describe Putin as a man who will act with impunity, but backed away from earlier comparisons to the Second World War.
“This is an individual who clearly believes that if he’s able, he has the right and the ability, to invade another country, to alter borders through military force,” he said. “You know we’re not at Hitleresque proportions, but this is really disconcerting. This is a major power threatening global peace and security in this way and I don’t think it’s to be taken lightly.”
Following Friday’s ceremonies in France, Harper will travel to Ukraine to attend Saturday’s swearing-in of the country’s new president and to affirm Canadian support against Russian aggression.
The full interview with Prime Minister Stephen Harper airs Sunday on The West Block with Tom Clark on Global News at noon Atlantic, 11 a.m. Eastern and Central, and 10 a.m. Mountain and Pacific.
– With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press
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