BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declined to attend an in-person summit of G7 leaders that US President Donald Trump has suggested hosting despite concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Leaders from the Group of Seven, which the United States heads this year, are scheduled to meet by videoconference in late June. Their plans to gather in-person at Camp David, the US presidential retreat in the state of Maryland, were called off.
Trump last week indicated that he could hold the huge gathering after all at the White House and parts of it at Camp David. However, Merkel has declined.
“As of today, considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington,” a spokesman said. “The federal chancellor thanks President Trump for his invitation to the G7 summit,” he added.
The 65-year-old chancellor is the oldest G7 leader after Trump, who is 73. Japan’s Shinzo Abe, also 65, is several months younger than Merkel. Their age puts them at higher risk from the coronavirus.
The White House has said it is putting the huge diplomatic gathering back on the agenda as a “show of strength” when world economies are gradually reemerging from shutdowns. Merkel is the first to decline while other world leaders have given vague responses.
The White House on Friday said Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had spoken and agreed on the importance of convening the G7 in person in the near future.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who hosted the 2018 summit, has said any in-person gathering would have to prioritise safety. A French presidential official said that Emmanuel Macron was “willing to go to Camp David if the health conditions allow.”
European Council head Charles Michel said through a spokesman that he would attend if health conditions allow.
G7 countries comprising of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States take turns organising the annual gathering. In 2019 it was France.