THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested on Monday that the Group of Eight industrialised nations may have outlived its purpose, sounding a defiant note after some G8 leaders said the gathering's next meeting in Russia should be cancelled.
"If our Western partners believe the format has exhausted itself, we don't cling to this format. We don't believe it will be a big problem if it doesn't convene," Lavrov told reporters in The Hague, where G7 leaders are meeting without Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.
Following Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, the G7 has suspended preparations for a G8 summit that had been scheduled to be held in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi in June.
Britain and Germany have also warned that Russia could face permanent exclusion from the G8 if the Kremlin took further steps against Ukraine.
Lavrov said many of the world's main diplomatic and economic crises were already addressed through other formats, citing among others the quartet of Middle East negotiators that has tried to work towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and six-power talks with Iran over its contested nuclear programme in which Russia participates.
"Many issues are discussed at that platform (G8) but by and large there are many other platforms," he said.
"The G8 is an informal club. No one hands out membership cards and no one can be kicked out of it," he said.
Lavrov accused G7 leaders of grandstanding for domestic audiences when discussing excluding Russia from the group.
"It is about joint work, not about someone capitalizing on someone else when needed or ignoring someone when they want to make a public gesture for the sake of some domestic political considerations of theirs," he said.
(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Alissa de Carbonnel; writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Janet Lawrence)