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G7 steps up efforts to support Ukraine as Pope Francis is set to join summit on Friday

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the first day of a G7 world leaders summit, at Borgo Egnazia, 13 June 2024
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the first day of a G7 world leaders summit, at Borgo Egnazia, 13 June 2024 Copyright Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP
Copyright Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP
By Giorgia Orlandi
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Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations are now turning their attention to migration on the second day of their summit on Friday.

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G7 leaders' deal on Thursday to use the profits of frozen Russian assets to secure a €46 billion loan to support Ukraine has already been described as "historic".

The joint effort to show Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that the world’s leading industrial democracies stand by Ukraine was also behind the long-term agreement signed on Thursday to strengthen Ukraine's defences against Russia’s invasion.

"It’s a strong signal we are sending to Putin, showing him that he cannot win," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said as she spoke to the press on the summit’s sidelines.

Together with Ukraine, Thursday’s focus was also on the Middle East, with the Group of Seven calling on Hamas to accept the cease-fire deal proposed by US President Joe Biden and demand the release of all hostages.

According to reports in the Italian media, the summit’s conclusions will also call on Israel to respect international law and “de-escalate from a full offensive on Rafah”.

Day two: Africa, China and AI

On the first day of the first major international summit hosted by Giorgia Meloni since taking office in 2022, talks also focused on Africa.

Speaking at the end of the first round of sessions, Meloni said she was glad that G7 leaders backed Italy’s Mattei Plan for Africa, which aims to address the root causes of migration flows from the continent.

Africa is set to be high on the agenda at this year’s summit in Puglia, with Italy aiming to position itself as Europe's main bridge to build new partnerships there.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, left, talks to Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after watching a skydiving demo during the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, left, talks to Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after watching a skydiving demo during the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia.Luca Bruno/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Right-wing Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, known for her hard-line stance on the issue, has been keen to increase investment and funding for African nations as a means of reducing migratory pressure on Europe.

Meloni has a controversial five-year deal with neighbouring Albania for the Balkan country to host thousands of asylum-seekers while Italy processes their claims. She has also spearheaded the 'Mattei Plan' for Africa, a continentwide strategy to increase economic opportunities at home and so discourage migration to Europe.

More than 22,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea so far in 2024, according to UNHCR figures. In 2023, more than 157,000 arrived, and nearly 2,000 died or went missing while attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

While the debate over Africa's role will continue on Friday, Pope Francis will attend the G7 summit on the second day. This marks the first time the Pope has participated in the summit, with talks focusing on artificial intelligence and migration and set to cover China as well.

The G7 meeting will certainly be remembered for the significant number of guest leaders attending the summit. Alongside Pope Francis, leaders of Ukraine and the Global South nations have also joined the event for extended discussions on the most pressing issues these parts of the world are facing.

However, on Thursday, the opening of the summit was accompanied by criticism against the Italian prime minister, accused of removing a reference guaranteeing safe and legal abortions in the summit’s final declaration.

This was later justified by Meloni’s government, saying that the document was still being negotiated. France and Canada have been pushing for the inclusion of the reference, following up on a deal struck at the G7 in Japan last year.

Tight security measures have been enforced as leaders gathered at the Borgo Egnazia resort, including introducing a red zone with restricted access and deploying over 5,000 police officers.

On Thursday night, world leaders were invited to a dinner hosted by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

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