Ukraine Takes Center Stage as G7 Leaders Convene in Italy for Summit

by IANS |

Bari, Italy, June 13 (IANS/DPA) The G7 leaders are huddling in Italy for a three-day summit dominated by the wars raging in Ukraine and Gaza, in addition to the growing trade and security tensions with China.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was invited to attend the gathering of the Group of Seven, which starts on Thursday at the luxury resort of Borgo Egnazia to the southeast of the city of Bari in southern Italy's Apulia region.

This could be Joe Biden's final G7 summit, coming five months before he faces his predecessor and right-wing Republican rival Donald Trump in a tense US presidential contest.

European leaders are under domestic political pressure, too.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will arrive after far-right parties made big gains in last weekend's European Parliament elections, raising questions about their countries' political environments.

And, after 14 years of Conservative government in Britain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to suffer a stinging defeat to the opposition Labour Party in the July 4 general election.

Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda of the meeting of the world's advanced industrialized democracies: Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The European Union also takes part.

Kyiv can expect to receive a huge new aid package from the G7 for its defence against Russia. The leaders are set to agree to finance a loan of $50 billion for Ukraine with interest from frozen Russian state assets.

The lion's share of the frozen assets - around 210 billion euros- is within the European Union. The Russian money generates billions in interest income every year.

After months of negotiations, Biden and Zelensky will also sign a bilateral security agreement between the United States and Ukraine on the sidelines of the G7, the White House said.

Washington also announced on the eve of the summit it was imposing sanctions on more than 300 individuals and entities connected to Russia's war economy, including financial institutions, the Moscow Stock Exchange and Chinese companies.

Ukraine is in the spotlight at back-to-back international gatherings in Europe. Berlin hosted the Ukraine Recovery Conference On Tuesday and Wednesday. After the G7 wraps up on Saturday, many of the same leaders are due to head to Switzerland for a Ukraine peace summit at which Russia will be absent.

Besides Zelensky, the leaders of Turkey, Brazil and India will also be attending the Italy talks. Pope Francis will be the first pontiff to take part in a G7 summit; He was invited to address the risks posed by artificial intelligence.

Other topics include relations with Africa and migration.

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