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Antony Blinken discusses Ukraine's energy crisis ahead of talks with G7 countries

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Top diplomats from the leading economies known as the Group of Seven - or G-7 - are worried about how Ukrainians will get through this winter.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Germany's foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, says Russia will make the cold weather hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANNALENA BAERBOCK: President Putin is bombing not only villages and cities, he's now also bombing power plants that millions of citizens need so heavily in their homes. So those cities he cannot conquer by bombs or military means, he obviously wants to starve and freeze to death.

INSKEEP: She spoke at the start of two days of talks between G-7 diplomats in the German city of Munster.

FADEL: NPR's Michele Kelemen traveled there with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and joins us now. Good morning, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So what can the G-7 countries do about Ukraine's energy crisis?

KELEMEN: Well, they heard directly from Ukraine's foreign minister, who spoke remotely to the meeting yesterday about his country's needs. The G-7 has been kind of coordinating some of the aid. Secretary Blinken sees it as a key forum for that kind of discussion. And, you know, he spends a lot of time talking to partners to make sure that they keep their commitments to provide aid to Ukraine, not just military aid, but humanitarian aid. And at some point, it's going to need a lot of reconstruction funds.

FADEL: Right.

KELEMEN: He's trying to make sure the West has a united front on this even as Europeans fear a tough winter for themselves and worry about their own energy supplies. The Europeans are also talking about a price cap on Russian energy. They want to figure out a way to keep Russian energy flowing without Moscow getting big profits to put back into its war efforts. And none of this is really an easy task.

FADEL: Yeah. I mean, this is also not the only topic being discussed, China also a big issue. And the meetings come as Germany's chancellor is on a high-profile visit to Beijing. What are you hearing about that?

KELEMEN: Yeah. That was kind of striking, to see these images of the German chancellor making this high-profile trip to Beijing, along with a whole host of German business executives. And it's at a time when the G-7 foreign ministers met here to talk about maintaining a tough line on China. The foreign ministers had a working dinner on China last night. U.S. officials say they think the G-7 is aligned. They talked about what they can expect from Xi Jinping, who has strengthened his control in China. They don't want China to gain access to sensitive Western technology or get control over strategic sectors. And that includes, by the way, a German port. U.S. officials say they strongly suggested to Germany that it not give a controlling stake in the port of Hamburg. And they seem satisfied with the results of that. But diplomats also want to leave the door open to cooperate with China on things like climate change and other global matters.

FADEL: What else is on the agenda as the world's major democracies meet?

KELEMEN: So today's schedule also included a meeting that focused on Iran. While the nuclear deal used to be the major focus of the Biden administration, it's now talking with partners about how to support protesters who are demanding basic human rights in Iran and facing a harsh crackdown. Africa is another big topic. That includes the competition with China on the continent. Several African foreign ministers are here for that meeting, so a lot on the table here, Leila.

FADEL: NPR's Michele Kelemen. Thanks so much.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.