The Biden administration has approved the delivery of advanced F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine after months of reluctance, a move that could shift the odds of victory against Russia in Kyiv’s favour.

CNN is reporting that sources close to the discussions have confirmed that the US has signalled the move to its European allies in recent weeks.

Washington has been at odds with Europe over supplying the American-made aircraft to Ukraine.

The sensitive technology on board means the US must approve the third-party transfer of the jets. Until now it has refused to do so, or to green-light the training of Ukrainian pilots on the aircraft.

But it seems Washington has relented, paving the way for jet deliveries ahead of the much-trailed spring offensive. The Netherlands, for instance, has 24 F-16 that are due to be scrapped next year and has signalled it may be willing to send them to the frontline.

The news came as leaders of the G7 held top-level talks in Hiroshima on the first day of a three-day summit.

In a joint statement, the group of rich democracies said it would “starve Russia of G7 technology, industrial equipment and services that support its war machine”. One option being considered is sanctioning Chinese companies which provide dual-use parts to Russia that end up on the battlefield in Ukraine.

While President Volodymyr Zelensky will be pleased by the talk of tougher sanctions, he’ll be delighted by the apparent US volte-face on F16s, which have been top of his wish-list for months.

After deciding that a video address would lack the personal touch, Zelensky is due to touch down in Japan on Saturday evening. The Ukrainian president will be sure to press home his advantage.

It’s been a day of high-profile gatherings the world over. Ahead of his date with the G7, Zelensky paid a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia today to attend the Arab League Summit and meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Last year, bin Salman negotiated the return to Ukraine of 10 foreigners captured by Russian-backed forces in the occupied Donbas. Zelensky will press the MBS to use his leverage over Vladimir Putin once again to secure the return of more political prisoners.

The big hope, however, is that Saudi Arabia could become a guarantor of Ukrainian security once a peace plan is in place.

Meanwhile, several thousand miles away in north-west China, a third summit has been taking place.

At a gathering of central asian powers, President Xi Jinping unveiled a grand plan for the economic development of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Xi is on manoeuvres in Central Asia, traditionally considered Russia’s backyard, not least by the Kremlin. Renewed interest in the resource-rich region follows the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

The pledges of support and cooperation at the two-day summit cover everything from building infrastructure to boosting trade. It represents a deepening of China’s Belt and Road initiative, with the aim of embedding itself in the economic nervous system of countries across the globe.

All the world’s focus may be in Japan, but the geopolitical cogs are turning elsewhere too. 

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