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LATIN AMERICA | 30-05-2024 18:55

Milei and Lula to meet face-to-face for the first time at G7 summit in Italy

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is bringing together an explosive cast of characters for her G7 summit.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni looks set to engineer the first presidential encounter between Argentina’s Javier Milei and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at the Group of Seven summit next month, while Pope Francis is also due to attend for the first time. 

The leaders of Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine are also confirmed on a potentially volatile cast list at the resort town of Apulia in southern Italy as Meloni looks to solidify her credentials as a stateswoman who can bring other power-brokers together. India’s Narendra Modi and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa also plan on being there, while Saudi Arabia is still to firm up its plans. 

With the United States and its allies under pressure and the global order in flux, the G7 leaders are due to discuss support for Ukraine, conflict between Israel and Hamas, competition with China and Artificial Intelligence. They are already converging on a plan to use frozen Russian assets to help Kyiv’s war effort. 

The official members of the G-7 members are the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union. The meeting will take place between June 13 and June 15. 

By bringing leaders from the so-called 'Global South' into the discussions, Meloni is increasing the chances of brokering significant agreements, but it also means she’s going to be tackling some longstanding tensions. 

Allies have diverging views on the Israel-Hamas conflict and different approaches to dealing with Iran, which has been stuck in a decades-long proxy war with Israel. They have also been slow to find common ground on how to handle the Russian assets, though a meeting of finance ministers earlier this month has helped to unlock positions.

If Meloni does manage to bring Lula and Milei face-to-face, that would represent a coup for the Italian premier since the two neighbours have been engaged in a high-profile war of words.

Lula called the Argentine president a “primitive” nationalist and Milei labelled his Brazilian counterpart a “Communist.” Lula has also been vocally critical of Israel and, in the past, of Western support for Kyiv.

Both countries have sizeable communities of Italian descent and have been a focus of Italian diplomacy. 

The first G7 appearance of Pope Francis will also be closely watched after the 87-year-old pontiff unleashed a storm of criticism this month by allegedly using a homophobic slur in a private meeting. The Pope, who has a track record of going off script, has also weighed in on the war in Ukraine in the past and at one point appeared to suggest that Kyiv should surrender to Russia. 

 

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by Donato Paolo Mancini, Bloomberg

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