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Macron wants Belarus opposition to join G7 summit

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French President Emmanuel Macron would like to invite the Belarusian opposition to the Group of Seven summit due to be held next month in Cornwall, if host country Britain agrees, the French presidency said on Tuesday.

But a British government spokeswoman said there were no plans at the moment to invite “further national participants to the G7 Summit”, adding that the leaders would discuss “Belarus’ reckless and dangerous behaviour”.

Western countries are keen to show their support for opponents of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko after authorities in Minsk forced down a passenger plane on Sunday and arrested a dissident journalist on board.

A French presidential official said Macron wanted to invite exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to speak at one of the “outreach” sessions, during which outside personalities can address the G7 leaders.

“The G7 is a club of democracies and it is important in the current context to support opponents of Lukashenko’s regime,” the French official said, adding that Macron was open to inviting the Belarus opposition if host Britain agreed to it.

Macron became the highest-profile Western leader to meet Tsikhanouskaya last September. Her supporters say she won Belarus’ contested presidential election last August, a claim Lukashenko denies.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Tsikhanouskaya, who is now based in Lithuania, a member state of the European Union that borders Belarus, thanked Macron for his call to have the Belarusian opposition invited to the G7 summit.

In Germany, Armin Laschet, leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party, supported the idea after speaking to Tsikhanouskaya by telephone.

“If London, the British hosts, agree, I back this request because it is important that the G7 gets involved in this unique occurrence,” Laschet, who hopes to succeed Merkel as chancellor after a September federal election.

He added that federal prosecutors in Germany were considering a request from 10 Belarusians to open a criminal investigation against Lukashenko for alleged crimes against humanity.

Airlines were shunning Belarusian air space on Tuesday and the country’s planes face a possible European ban following the forced landing of the Ryanair flight in Minsk on Sunday and the arrest of 26-year-old journalist Roman Protasevich.

The G7 groups the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada.

Britain holds the G7 rotating presidency this year and has scheduled the summit for June 11-13 in the southwestern English county of Cornwall.

(Reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Elizabeth Piper in London; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin, Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrea Ricci)

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Brazil’s Vale says output begins at Reid Brook nickel deposit in Canada

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Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Northern Labrador has started the production at its Reid Brook deposit, the Brazilian miner said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

Vale said the Canadian Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps mines are likely to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025.

 

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by Jason Neely)

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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U.S. fine Air Canada $25.5 milliom over delayed refunds

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The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds requested by thousands of customers for flights to or from the United States.

The department said it filed a formal complaint with a U.S. administrative law judge over flights Air Canada canceled or significantly changed. The penalty is “intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future,” the department said, adding Air Canada continued its no-refund policy in violation of U.S. law for more than a year.

Air Canada said it believes the U.S. government’s position “has no merit.” It said it “will vigorously challenge the proceedings.”

Air Canada obtained a financial aid package this spring that gave the carrier access to up to C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) in funds through a loan program.

The carrier said it has been refunding nonrefundable tickets as part of the Canadian government’s financial package. Since April 13 eligible customers have been able to obtain refunds for previously issued nonrefundable tickets, it said.

The Transportation Department disclosed it is also “actively investigating the refund practices of other U.S. and foreign carriers flying to and from the United States” and said it will take “enforcement action” as appropriate.

The administration said the Air Canada penalty sought was over “extreme delays in providing the required refunds.”

Refund requests spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Transportation Department has received over 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds for flights canceled or significantly changed. The department said the airline committed a minimum of 5,110 violations and passengers waited anywhere from five to 13 months to receive refunds.

Last month, a trade group told U.S. lawmakers that 11 U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upended the travel industry.

In May, Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

($1 = 1.2195 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in MontrealEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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