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G7 Summit: Deal to Use Russian Assets  06/13 06:09

   A Group of Seven summit opened Thursday with agreement reached on a U.S. 
proposal to back a $50 billion loan to Ukraine using frozen Russian assets as 
collateral, giving Kyiv a strong show of support even as Europe's political 
chessboard shifts to the right.

   BORGO EGNAZIA, Italy (AP) -- A Group of Seven summit opened Thursday with 
agreement reached on a U.S. proposal to back a $50 billion loan to Ukraine 
using frozen Russian assets as collateral, giving Kyiv a strong show of support 
even as Europe's political chessboard shifts to the right.

   Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni welcomed the G7 heads of state to the summit 
at a luxury resort in southern Italy, saying she wanted the message of this 
meeting to be one of dialogue with the global south and unity.

   She likened the G7 to the ancient olive trees that are a symbol of the 
Puglia region, "with their solid roots, and branches projected toward the 
future."

   Beyond the the war in Ukraine, Pope Francis will become the first pope to 
address a G7 summit, adding a dash of celebrity and moral authority to the 
annual gathering. He'll be speaking Friday about the promises and perils of 
artificial intelligence, but is expected to also renew his appeal for a 
peaceful end to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas 
war in Gaza.

   The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom 
and the United States. Italy, which is hosting the summit, has invited several 
African leaders -- Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Kenyan President 
William Ruto and Tunisian President Kais Saied -- to press Italy's development 
and migration initiatives on the continent.

   Other guests include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Brazilian 
President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fresh 
off his own election, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

   With Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and now French President 
Emmanuel Macron facing elections in the coming months, pressure was on the G7 
to get done what it can while the status quo lasts.

   Frozen Russian assets to support Ukraine

   The U.S. proposal involves engineering a $50 billion loan to help Ukraine in 
its fight against Russia that would use interest earned on profits from 
Russia's frozen central bank assets, most of them held in the European Union, 
as collateral.

   A French official, briefing reporters Wednesday, said a political decision 
by the leaders had been reached but that technical and legal details of the 
mechanism to tap into the assets still had to be worked out. The issue is 
complicated because if the Russian assets one day are unfrozen -- say if the 
war ends -- then the windfall profits will no longer be able to be used to pay 
off the loan, requiring a burden-sharing arrangement with other countries.

   In addition to the deal, Sunak announced up to 242 million pounds (286 
million euros or $310 million) in nonmilitary aid to Ukraine for humanitarian, 
energy and stabilization needs. Washington also sent strong signals of support, 
with widened sanctions against Russia to target Chinese companies that are 
helping its war machine.

   Europe's new political chessboard

   Meloni goes into the meeting fortified at home and abroad after her 
far-right party had an even stronger showing in the European Parliament 
election than the national general election in 2022 that made her Italy's first 
female premier. Known for its revolving-door governments, Italy is now in the 
unusual position of being the most stable power in the EU.

   The leaders of the G7's two other EU members, Germany and France, didn't 
fare nearly as well, rattled after hard-right parties made strong showings in 
the vote. Macron called a snap election and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saw 
his Social Democrats finish behind mainstream conservatives and the far-right 
Alternative for Germany.

   As a result, Meloni is likely to be able to steer the three-day meeting to 
her key priority items as she further cements her role on the world stage, 
analysts said. One sign of her flexed far-right muscles: Meloni's office denied 
media reports that Italy was trying to water down language about access to 
abortion in the final communique.

   A French official, speaking anonymously in line with Macron's office 
customary practices, said there were diverging views with Italian negotiators 
on some topics, including on sexual and reproductive health and vaccines.

   Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani confirmed abortion was being 
discussed, but said discussions were continuing.

   "While it's unlikely the recent results will radically shift the focus of 
the upcoming G7 Summit, this electoral win offers Premier Meloni additional 
leverage to frame this as an essentially 'Mediterranean Summit," said Nick 
O'Connell, deputy director of the Atlantic Council.

   That includes pushing her migration agenda as Meloni seeks to leverage her 
program for a nonexploitative relationship with Africa to boost development 
while curbing illegal migration to Europe.

   The pope and artificial intelligence

   Pope Francis has called for an international treaty to ensure AI is 
developed and used ethically, acknowledging the promise it offers but 
emphasizing the grave and existential threats it poses.

   He'll bring that campaign to the world's industrialized countries as wars 
are raging across multiple fronts. One of his greatest concerns has been on the 
use of AI in the armaments sector, which has been a frequent focus of the 
Jesuit pope who has called even traditional weapons makers "merchants of death."

   But Francis is also concerned about what AI means for the poorest and 
weakest: technology that could determine the reliability of an applicant for a 
mortgage, the right of a migrant to receive political asylum or the chance of 
reoffending by someone previously convicted of a crime.

   It's happening where?

   The G7 summit is taking place in a sprawling luxury resort that's something 
of a theater set, a faux town made to resemble one of Puglia's medieval 
white-washed hamlets but that actually only dates from 2010.

   Located next to an actual archaeological park, Borgo Egnazia features narrow 
streets, villas, restaurants and a town square complete with a clocktower. A 
favorite of celebrities, it will be sealed off to outsiders for the duration of 
the summit.

   No such five-star accommodations await the 2,000-plus police and Carabinieri 
forces who have been brought in to provide security. Authorities on Wednesday 
sequestered the decommissioned cruise ship that had been housing them in 
Brindisi's port, after the police union complained about unacceptable hygienic 
conditions on board.

   As with any G7, an assortment of anti-global, anti-war and climate activists 
are staging protests around the summit venue, but far from where the leaders 
are meeting. One group is staging a "dinner for the poor" on Friday night 
calling for "peace, the rights of peoples and against the Big 7 who claim to 
decide the destiny of the world and our planet."

 
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