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UPDATE 1-G7 'circus' gives leaders a chance to hug, hustle and joke

Fri, 11th Jun 2021 16:24

(Adds details)

By Michel Rose and Steve Holland

CARBIS BAY, England, June 11 (Reuters) - Boris Johnson cast
the Group of Seven summit as a "gigantic media circus" on
Thursday after leaders were paraded before journalists and U.S.
President Joe Biden walked arm-in-arm up the beach discussing
democracy with France's Emmanuel Macron.

G7 summits are notorious for anodyne and slightly ridiculous
photo opportunities which leave world leaders struggling to seem
natural in bizarre contexts - for example meeting another world
leader on a small, overcast English beach.

Under grey clouds, British prime minister Johnson, with
ruffled blonde hair, and his new wife Carrie, greeted other G7
leaders and their partners on a specially constructed wooden
gangway beside the Atlantic.

After the leaders returned for a socially distanced "family
photograph", Germany's Angela Merkel urged Johnson ahead,
telling him: "You are the leader."

French President Macron held back, making a few remarks to
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, before Biden draped his arm
around Macron who returned the embrace. They walked smiling,
arm-in-arm along the walkway, discussing affairs of state.

The Elysee Palace said Macron and Biden had talked about
"how to make democracies more efficient for the middle class and
on China said there should be no confrontation but that we
should defend our values and interests".

As he opened the summit, Johnson said it would be hugely
significant after the "wretched pandemic" and speculated that
perhaps leaders could rebuild in "a more gender neutral, a more
feminine, way".

Ordering the media to leave the meeting after his initial
remarks, Johnson said: "This is meant to be a fireside chat
between the great democracies of the world - it's turned into a
gigantic media circus in which we have to greet each other
several times."

Such was the awkwardness of many of the staged encounters
that U.S. first lady Jill Biden quipped: "I feel like we are at
a wedding". Johnson, whose recent marriage is his third, said it
was like "walking down the aisle".

President Biden urged journalists to go swimming, feigning
an order: "Everybody in the water."

When asked what his message would be to Kremlin chief
Vladimir Putin when the two leaders meet in Geneva next week,
Biden said: "I'll tell you after I have delivered it."
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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