Queen Elizabeth II opens Commonwealth meeting in Malta

AP News
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Posted: Nov 27, 2015 1:48 PM
Queen Elizabeth II opens Commonwealth meeting in Malta

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II opened the Commonwealth summit Friday on the Mediterranean island of Malta — a meeting that will focus on climate change and the threat of extremist violence.

The 89-year-old British monarch praised the accomplishments of the 53-nation Commonwealth and her happy associations with Malta.

"Prince Philip and I first came to live here in Malta in 1949, the year the Commonwealth was founded," she said, hailing a vast advancement in freedom and human rights in the decades since then. "I have been privileged to witness this transformation and to consider its purpose."

The Commonwealth links more than 2 billion people on five continents, including large countries like India, Australia and Canada and small island states like Tonga and Vanuatu.

French President Francois Hollande briefly left grief-stricken France Friday to travel to Malta to urge Commonwealth leaders to take action on climate change during the United Nations climate conference that begins in Paris Monday and will be attended by some 150 world leaders.

He said that man is his own worst enemy, when it comes to both terrorism and the environment.

"We are mobilizing ourselves in favor of the environment for the planet," he said, while expressing his fear that a deal may be blocked by a small group of countries.

He also called for a united front against extremists and urged the British Parliament to support military action against the Islamic State group in Syria.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the summit that the climate change conference will show a political commitment to creating a better environment for the planet Earth and its people.

"It may be premature to judge what will happen, all the stars seem to be aligning in one direction. There is a strong commitment not only from government but civil society too," he said.

The queen was accompanied to Malta by her husband Prince Philip, her son Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and Charles' wife, Camilla.

She has long ties to Malta. Between 1949 and 1951, Philip was stationed on Malta as a Royal Navy officer and the future queen lived here as a military wife, rather than a duty-burdened heir to the throne.

The queen paid tribute to Philip, praising his "boundless energy and commitment" to the Commonwealth, and to Prince Charles and Camilla.

Outgoing Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said that both Canada and Australia have pledged substantial amounts for combating climate change.

He said financing will be made available to small states for this purpose.