G7 leaders turn gaze to Africa, climate harmony elusive

Italy had hoped to make the continent of Africa the major focus of the annual G7 gathering, holding the discussions on the island of Sicily that has taken in hundreds of thousands of migrants over the past four years as they flee war and poverty back home. Image courtesy: Reuters
Italy had hoped to make the continent of Africa the major focus of the annual G7 gathering, holding the discussions on the island of Sicily that has taken in hundreds of thousands of migrants over the past four years as they flee war and poverty back home. Image courtesy: Reuters
Italy had hoped to make the continent of Africa the major focus of the annual G7 gathering, holding the discussions on the island of Sicily that has taken in hundreds of thousands of migrants over the past four years as they flee war and poverty back home. Image courtesy: Reuters

Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations met African heads of state on Saturday, the final day of their annual summit which has been marked by discord over climate change, but unity on tackling terrorism – according to Reuters.

Italy had hoped to make the continent of Africa the major focus of the annual G7 gathering, holding the discussions on the island of Sicily that has taken in hundreds of thousands of migrants over the past four years as they flee war and poverty back home.

However, the two-day meeting got overshadowed by a suicide bombing in northern England on Monday that killed 22 people, and also got bogged down by lengthy discussions on the merit of free trade and the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to decide whether to honour a U.S. commitment to greenhouse gas emissions and has pushed back against a lattice of international trade accords that he says have hurt American economic interests.

“We are having to talk about things settled years ago,” said a top level member of one G7 delegation, frustrated by the U.S. position.

Diplomats from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States worked late into the night to agree on the final communique, which was expected to be little more than six pages long, against 32 pages last year.

A French presidential source said substantial progress had been made on the question of trade, particularly in the area of multilateralism, suggesting Trump may have bowed to pressure for a more collaborative approach to international commerce.

The leaders of Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Niger and Nigeria’s acting president joined the talks on Saturday morning, along with the heads of the African Union, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“Perhaps the choice (to be in) Taormina and Sicily says much about how important our relations are with Africa,” Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in opening remarks.

“Today our discussion on Africa will focus on the need for a partnership across all sectors […] with innovation and development our core objective,” he said, speaking in Italian.