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G7 Leaders Tackle Migration on 2nd Day 06/14 06:20

   

   BARI, Italy (AP) -- Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized 
nations turned their attention to migration at the start of the second day of 
their summit Friday, seeking ways to combat trafficking and increase investment 
in countries from where migrants start out on often life-threatening journeys.

   The gathering in a luxury resort in Italy's southern Puglia region is also 
discussing other major topics, such as financial support for Ukraine, the war 
in Gaza, artificial intelligence, climate change, as well as China's industrial 
policy and economic security.

   But some divisions also appeared to emerge over the wording of the summit's 
final declaration, with disagreement reported over the inclusion of a reference 
to abortion.

   Migration is of particular interest to summit host Italy, which lies on one 
of the major routes into the European Union for people fleeing war and poverty 
in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

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

   Italy "wanted to dedicate ample space to another continent that is 
fundamental to the future of all of us, which is Africa, with its difficulties, 
its opportunities," Meloni said at the summit opening Thursday.

   "Linked to Africa, and not only to Africa, there is another fundamental 
issue that Italy has placed at the center of the presidency, which is the issue 
of migration, the increasingly worrying role that trafficking organizations are 
assuming, clearly exploiting the desperation of human beings," she said.

   Meloni has a controversial five-year deal with neighboring 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.

   The United States has also been struggling with a growing number of migrants 
at its southern border. President Joe Biden introduced new policies to curb 
migration after a bill he tried to get through Congress failed to pass.

   However, immigrant rights advocates filed lawsuits on Thursday over the new 
policies, and it is unclear whether they will be able to withstand the legal 
challenges in the U.S. courts.

   Tackling migration "is a common challenge," European Council President 
Charles Michel said after arriving at the summit.

   "This is the route that we intend, together with our partners, to put in 
place: this coalition to fight against the smugglers, these criminal groups 
which are abusing (vulnerable people) to make money and to destabilize regions 
and countries across the world," he added.

   Apart from the G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the 
United Kingdom and the U.S., the Italian hosts have also invited several 
African leaders -- Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Kenyan President 
William Ruto and Tunisian President Kais Saied -- to press Meloni's migration 
and development initiatives.

   Pope Francis will also become the first pontiff to address a G7 summit when 
he delivers a speech on artificial intelligence Friday. Other invitees include 
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Brazilian President Luiz Incio Lula 
da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep 
Tayyip Erdogan.

   The summit opened Thursday with a strong show of support for Kyiv: an 
agreement reached on a U.S. proposal to back a $50 billion loan to Ukraine 
using frozen Russian assets as collateral.

   Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the freezing of Russian assets as 
"theft" and vowed it "will not go unpunished."

   "Western countries have frozen a part of Russian assets and foreign exchange 
reserves, and are now thinking about some kind of legal basis in order to 
completely appropriate them," he said in a speech at the Russian Foreign 
Ministry on Friday. "But, despite all the scheming, theft will remain theft, 
and it will not go unpunished."

   Biden also signed a bilateral security agreement with Zelenskyy on Thursday 
evening, aiming to send a signal to Russia of American resolve in supporting 
Kyiv.

   Describing it as a "truly historic day," Zelenskyy said the agreement was 
"on security and thus on the protection of human life."

   But some cracks appeared among the G7 leaders, with French President 
Emmanuel Macron deploring a lack of reference to abortion in the draft of the 
summit's final document.

   The statement after last year's summit in Hiroshima, Japan, expressed a 
commitment to provide access to safe and legal abortion to women and girls, and 
pledged to defend gender equality and the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ 
community.

   A senior EU official confirmed Friday that the word "abortion" was not in 
this year's final communique, although a reference to promoting sexual and 
reproductive health rights was.

   "It was not possible to reach agreement on these things in the room," the 
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the 
private discussions.

   Asked on Thursday about reports that abortion would not be included in the 
final text, Macron said, "I regret this." France "has included women's right to 
abortion, the freedom of decision on one's own body, into its Constitution," he 
said, adding that France defends "this vision of equality between women and 
men."

   "It's not a vision that's shared across all the political spectrum," Macron 
said, replying to a question from an Italian reporter. "I regret it, but I 
respect it because it was the sovereign choice of your people."

   Meloni, who campaigned on a "God, Faith and Fatherland" motto, has denied 
she is rolling back rights to abortions, which have been legal in Italy since 
1978. But the center-left opposition has warned that her initiatives are 
chipping away at those rights, including by giving pro-life groups access to 
women considering abortions.

   Italy's ANSA news agency said this year's text says the G7 "repeats our 
commitment expressed in the final communique of the G7 of Hiroshima for a 
universal, adequate and sustainable access to health services for women, 
including the right to reproduction."

 
 
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