G7 leaders were scrambling on Friday night for a face-saving statement that could paper over the deep rifts caused by Donald Trump’s assault on global trade rules and his unilateralist approach to foreign policy.
Hours earlier he provoked a furious backlash from the UK and other world leaders by calling for Russia to rejoin the group.
But the talks were dominated by the need to find common ground on trade and senior figures, including Mr Trump, suggested that some kind of joint statement on the need to jointly re-examine commercial relationships might be found before their summit ends on Saturday.
Yet any consensus document is unlikely to mend the damage done by the American leader’s decision to impose stiff tariffs on Washington’s closest allies.
In contrast, as he set off for the summit, he had warm words for Moscow.
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“Russia should be in the meeting,” he said. “Why are we having a meeting without them? Russia should be a part of it.
“You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run.
“It doesn’t matter what you call it. It used to be the G8. They threw Russia out. They should let Russia back in. We should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
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Russia was ousted from the elite group in 2014 as punishment for Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea, and its support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
His comments made for a frosty moment as the leaders met for their “family portrait”. He all but ignored Theresa May and Angela Merkel during a photo op that was over in a matter of seconds.
However, Mr Trump and Emmanuel Macron, the French president, both insisted that rapid progress on trade talks was still possible after meeting briefly on the first day.
Mr Trump explained they had a little test once in a while.
“The United States has had a very big deficit. We’re going to work it,” he said.
French officials also reportedly suggested Mr Trump had agreed to technical talks.
The evening was rounded out by dinner of surf and turf followed by a Cirque Du Soleil performance beside a fire pit. But there was little sign the show had done anything to heal festering divisions.
Earlier Mr Trump’s suggestion for Russia to be readmitted was condemned by Theresa May, who has been pressing World leaders to take a tougher line on Russia in the wake of the Salisbury spy poisoning.
A senior Government source said: “The Prime Minister has always said we should engage with Russia but beware.
“We should remind ourselves why the G8 became the G7 – it was after Russia illegally annexed Crimea. Since then we have seen malign activity from Russia in a whole variety of ways, including on the streets of Salisbury in the UK.
“Before any conversations can take place about Russia rejoining, it needs to change its approach.”
Mrs May’s clash with Mr Trump came after sources told The Telegraph that the president has grown frustrated with Mrs May’s “school mistress” tone.
European members of the G7 unanimously oppose Mr Trump’s call, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said later.
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“The common European position is against the return of Russia,” one senior aide to Macron told reporters, although the leaders did leave open “the possibility of establishing dialogue” with Moscow.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister and host of the summit, also condemned the approach. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, accused the US President of “playing into the hands” of those who want to undermine democracy.
Mr Tusk said: “What worries me most however is the fact that the rules-based international order is being challenged, surprisingly not by the usual suspects but by it’s main architect and guarantor – the US.
“We will not stop trying to convince President Trump that undermining this order makes no sense at all. It will only play into the hands of those who seek a new post-West order, where liberal democracy and fundamental freedoms will cease to exist. This is in the interests of neither the US or Europe. Even if difficult times like these there is still more that unites and divides us. It is far too early for our enemies and adversaries to celebrate.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating whether associates of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia in a bid to sway the 2016 election.
Mr Trump, speaking on the White House lawn, said he had been tough on Russia but they should still be part of the group.
He said: “I have been Russia’s worst nightmare. Putin is probably going ‘I wish Hillary won’.”
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The president also repeated his tough stance on tariffs, saying allies had been “taking advantage” of the US on trade.
He said: “All these nations have been taking advantage of the US on trade, we have to straighten it out. It’s what I do.
“They say ‘We fought with you in the wars’ but they don’t mention the fact that they have trade barriers against our farmers. When it’s all straightened out we’ll all be in love again.”
The Russian government did not appear keen on Mr Trump’s idea.
“Russia is focused on other formats apart from the G7,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.