Several members of the Group of Seven (G7) are interested in inviting Russia back to the organisation, following five years of its absence from the bloc after tensions over Crimea, US President Donald Trump said.

“I think that’s a work in progress. We have a number of people that would like to see Russia back. I think it would be — I think it would be advantageous to many things in the world. I think it would be positive. Other people agree with me. And it’s something that we’re discussing”, Trump told reporters when asked whether other G7 members would encourage Russia to join the bloc again.

Trump did not name who specifically agreed with him on inviting Russia back to the G7 group and who disagreed, saying that perhaps the situation would remain as it is, without Russia’s involvement in the bloc.

The US president is currently attending the G7 Summit in the French resort city of Biarritz, which will run through Monday. The US president said he had a “lively” discussion on Saturday with other members of the G7 group on the possibility of inviting Russia back to the group.

Prior to that, Trump agreed on 20 August to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to invite Russia to the 2020 G7 summit in the United States. Trump also said that Russia should return to what used to be G8. While some countries, like Japan, are open to the idea, others, like Canada, remain stridently opposed to it. Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that his country saw any form of dialogue with G7 nations as useful.

The G8 format had been in place from 1998-2014 but was then reduced to the G7 due to disagreements with Russia regarding the events in Crimea and Ukraine. The G7 have accused Moscow of interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs and introduced sanctions on Russia as a result.

Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum in which nearly 96 percent of voters supported the move in March 2014. Ukraine, as well as the majority of Western countries, refused to recognise the referendum as legitimate.

The Russian authorities have repeatedly claimed that the referendum was conducted in full compliance with international law and that it was the democratically expressed will of the Crimean residents to become part of Russia again.

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