'Challenging' talks expected as Trump and other G7 leaders meet

TAORMINA, Italy, May 26 (Reuters) - Talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and other leaders of the world's rich nations at the G7 summit on Friday were expected to be "robust" and "challenging" after he had lambasted NATO allies and condemned German trade policies a day earlier.

Trump's confrontational remarks in Brussels, on the eve of the two-day summit in the Mediterranean resort town of Taormina, cast a pall over a meeting at which America's partners had hoped to coax him into softening his stances on trade and climate change.

The summit kicked off with a ceremony at an ancient Greek theater perched on a cliff overlooking the sea where war ships patrolled the sparkling blue waters.

Later, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States will hold talks on terrorism, Syria, North Korea and the global economy.

"No doubt, this will be the most challenging G7 summit in years," Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who chairs summits of European Union leaders, said before the meeting got underway.

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn predicted "robust" discussions on trade and climate.

Trump, who dismissed human-made global warming as a "hoax" during his election campaign, is threatening to pull the United States out of a 2015 climate deal clinched in Paris in 2015.

Fellow G7 leaders are trying to convince him to stay in. Cohn and other administration officials have said Trump will wait until after the summit to decide.

"This is the first real opportunity that the international community has to force the American administration to begin to show its hand, particularly on environment policy," said Tristen Naylor, a lecturer on development at the University of Oxford and deputy director of the G20 Research Group.

'VERY BAD'

The summit, being held near Europe's most active volcano, Mount Etna, is the final leg of a nine-day tour for Trump which started in the Middle East.

On Thursday in Brussels, with NATO leaders standing alongside him, he accused members of the military alliance of owing "massive amounts of money" to the United States and NATO -- even though allied contributions are voluntary.

RELATED: President Trump's trip to Belgium

28 PHOTOS
President Donald Trump's trip to Belgium
See Gallery
President Donald Trump's trip to Belgium
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at the Brussels Airport, in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at the Brussels Airport, in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel (R) review troops upon arriving at the Brussels Airport, in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel review troops upon arriving at the Brussels Airport, in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
First lady Melania Trump waves from the motorcade as she sits next to U.S. President Donald Trump at the Brussels Airport in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Belgian troops stand at attention as U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at the Brussels Airport, in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (2ndL) and first lady Melania Trump (R) pose with King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium at the Palace in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
U.S. President Donald Trump (2ndL) and first lady Melania Trump (R) pose with King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium at the Palace in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) walks with King Philippe of Belgium at the Palace in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
U.S. President Donald Trump and his delegation meet Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
(L-R) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump and National security adviser H.R. McMaster eat Belgian chocolate during their meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
European Council President Donald Tusk (L) speaks to US President Donald Trump (R) after welcoming him at EU headquarters, as part of the NATO meeting, in Brussels, on May 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) walks with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) arrives for his meeting with President of the European Council Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (neither pictured) at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini before their meeting at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk take their seats before their meeting at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wait the arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron (unseen) before a lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. first lady Melania Trump greets French President Emmanuel Macron as President Donald Trump (C) looks on before a lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands before a lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
From L-R, Belgium's King Philippe, U.S. President Donald Trump, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belgian's Prime Minister Charles Michel gather with NATO member leaders to pose for a family picture before the start of their summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks beside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the NATO summit at their new headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May react during a ceremony at the new NATO headquarters before the start of a summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg (L), U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (R) attend a ceremony at the new NATO headquarters before the start of a summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
NATO country leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump (L) Canada's Prime Minster Justin Trudeau (L Top) and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (R) react during an aerial fly-pass at the new NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
U.S President Donald Trump (C) follows Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May as NATO member leaders gather before the start of their summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
U.S President Donald Trump (C) takes his place as NATO member leaders gather before the start of their summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) is flanked by British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during in a working dinner meeting at the NATO headquarters during a NATO summit of heads of state and government in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Matt Dunham/Pool
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The remarks went down badly with European leaders, who had hoped Trump would use the opportunity to confirm his commitment to Article 5, the core NATO principle that an attack on one member is viewed as an attack on all.

"When an American president cannot commit clearly to Article 5 at a time when everyone is expecting him to do this then there is the risk that Moscow interprets this as meaning it is no longer valid," said Jan Techau of the American Academy in Berlin.

According to German media reports, Trump also condemned Germany for "very bad" trade policies in a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, signaling he might take steps to limit sales of German cars in the United States.

Juncker called the reports in Spiegel Online and Sueddeutsche Zeitung exaggerated, saying that while Trump had talked about Germany's trade surplus as a problem, he had not done so aggressively.

Trump, asked by reporters in Taormina whether he had accused Germany of being "very bad" on trade, did not respond.

Trump is attending his first major international summit but it not the only G7 newcomer. French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and British Prime Minister Theresa May will also be attending the elite club for the first time.

May is expected to leave a day early, following Monday's suicide bombing at a concert in northern England that killed 22 people carried out by a suspected Islamist militant of Libyan descent who grew up in Britain.

G7 leaders were expected to issue a separate statement on terrorism on Friday, before issuing their formal communique on Saturday. Italian officials have suggested the final communique will be shorter than 10 pages. At the last G7 summit in Japan it totalled 32 pages.

RUSSIA CLOUD

Italy chose to stage the summit in Sicily to draw attention to Africa, which is 140 miles (225 km) from the island at its closest point across the Mediterranean.

More than half a million migrants, most from sub-Saharan Africa, have reached Italy by boat since 2014, taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to launch their perilous crossings.

Italy is eager for rich nations to do much more to help develop Africa's economy and make it more appealing for youngsters to stay in their home countries.

The leaders of Tunisia, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria and Kenya will join the discussions on Saturday to say what should be done to encourage investment and innovation on their continent.

One country that will not be present is Russia. It was expelled from the group in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Trump called for improved ties with Moscow during his election campaign.

But accusations from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the U.S. election to help Trump, and investigations into his campaign's contacts with Russian officials, have hung over his four-month-old presidency and prevented him from getting too close to Moscow.

On Thursday, the Washington Post and NBC News reported that Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was under scrutiny by the FBI because of his meetings with Russian officials before Trump took office.

Kushner and his wife, Trump's daughter Ivanka, have returned to Washington after accompanying the president for the first part of his first foreign tour. (Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.