Wars to dominate G7 talks as foreign ministers seek path to peace

By Thomson Reuters Apr 15, 2024 | 10:46 AM

By Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) – Efforts to end wars in the Middle East and Ukraine will dominate this week’s meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers, host Italy’s top diplomat Antonio Tajani said on Monday, with the West struggling to get its voice heard.

Gathering on the picturesque island of Capri from April 17-19, the ministers from major Western powers will present a united front in demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and a de-escalation of tensions between Israel and Iran.

The ministers from the United States, Italy, Germany, Japan, France, Britain and Canada will also reiterate full backing for Ukraine in its two-year war against a more powerful Russia.

“It is not easy in this moment. But I think diplomacy is crucial,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told Reuters ahead of the three-day gathering that he will chair. “Our international position is very clear … We are united. This is crucial.”

But having a unified position has not been enough to bring peace either to Ukraine or the Middle East.

The Israelis have resisted repeated calls to halt their Gaza offensive, while in Ukraine the momentum on the battlefield has shifted in Russia’s favour, with the West seemingly incapable of providing Kyiv with the weaponry it desperately needs.

Tajani said it was crucial for Ukraine to keep the Russians at bay, adding that both the head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba would be in Capri to discuss the conflict.

“If there is a defeat of Ukraine, it’s impossible to achieve an agreement. Defeat is not a good bridge for peace. For this we need to back Ukraine. But the final goal is peace. Peace with justice. Justice, Russia, outside Ukraine,” Tajani said, speaking in English.


Highlighting that the West alone could not bring sufficient pressure on Russia to end the war, Tajani said it was essential to involve China: “If you want to achieve peace, we need also Chinese engagement. The Chinese are friends of Russia,” he said.

As Ukraine finances buckle under the weight of the war, the United States has proposed that the G7 looks at ways of utilising some $300 billion of sovereign Russian assets held in the West to help Kyiv.

Diplomatic sources say the U.S., Canada and Britain want the assets to be seized, but that EU nations are reluctant to do so because it would set a dangerous legal precedent.

“At the political level we are not against (this). But I think we need to study if it’s possible,” said Tajani. “Without a legal basis, it would be a mistake to move on.”

A final decision is expected to be taken by the full G7 leaders’ summit in the southern region of Puglia in June.

The opening session of the meeting on Wednesday evening will focus on Gaza and Iran, with the situation in the Red Sea under discussion on Thursday morning. Before turning to Ukraine, the ministers will look at ways of reinforcing ties with Africa.

Rome has made Africa a priority for its year at the helm of the G7 presidency, saying developing economic wellbeing across the continent is vital to prevent mass migration towards Europe in the years ahead.

“It’s a big mistake to look at Africa (through) European glasses. We need to look at Africa with African glasses. We need to work together. They are friends. They are not under us,” said Tajani.

The final session on Friday morning is earmarked for talks on Asia. “We are for the status quo in China, in Taipei (Taiwan). We want peace,” said the Italian minister.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Peter Graff)