Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi

Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on June 12, 2024. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi

  • Pope Francis is the first pope to participate in G7 discussions
  • Pope will have a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will meet with the leaders of the United States, Ukraine, France and India, among others, on the sidelines of the Group of 7 (G7) summit in Italy, the Vatican said on Thursday.

Francis, who in January warned against the “perverse” dangers of artificial intelligence, is due to take part in leaders’ talks on the new technology on Friday.

He is the first pope to participate in G7 discussions.

Issuing a program for his one-day appearance, the Vatican said Francis would have a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden, a fellow Catholic.

The Vatican said he would also have one-on-one meetings with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, France’s Emmanuel Macron, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kenya’s William Ruto,

Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and the head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva.

Francis and Biden met at the Vatican in 2021 and the president said the pope told him he was a “good Catholic” who can receive communion even as conservative US bishops wanted to deny it because of Biden’s support for abortion rights.

The two men also spoke in October last year about the crisis in the Middle East after Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Biden has spoken movingly of his respect for the pope, praising his empathy and calling him a “decent man.” They stay in touch, Biden has said.


Brazil’s Lula seeks to bolster support for global alliance against hunger

Updated 17 sec ago
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Brazil’s Lula seeks to bolster support for global alliance against hunger

  • Hunger is something that requires a political decision,” Lula said during a ministerial meeting to establish the global alliance

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva unveiled a global alliance against hunger and poverty in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, an initiative he described as one of Brazil’s top priorities for its current presidency of the Group of 20 nations.
“Hunger is not something natural. Hunger is something that requires a political decision,” Lula said during a ministerial meeting to establish the global alliance. The leftist leader slammed the perpetuation of hunger across the world despite sufficient production.
Lula was seeking to bolster support ahead of the formal establishment of the alliance later this year, when world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the Nov. 18-19 summit of the leading 20 rich and developing nations.
The alliance aims to implement a mechanism to mobilize funds and knowledge to support the expansion of policies and programs to combat inequality and poverty, according to a statement from Brazil’s G20 press office on Tuesday. It will be managed from a secretariat located at the Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome and Brasilia until 2030, with half of its costs covered by Brazil, Lula said in his speech.
A former trade unionist who governed between 2003 and 2010, Lula returned to the presidency for a third, non-consecutive term in 2023 after thwarting the reelection bid of former president Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula, who was born to a poor family in Brazil’s northeastern Pernambuco state, has long sought to tackle hunger both at home and abroad.
Food security issues and poverty are present across Brazil, from the Amazon to large urban centers, which means the country can bring expertise to the global discussion, said Marcelo Cândido da Silva, a history professor at the University of Sao Paulo and vice-coordinator of an international research project against hunger.
Brazil is also one of the world’s top exporters of food, sending abroad large quantities of corn, soja, coffee, sugar, beef and chicken.
Ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030 are part of the UN’s sustainable development goals, adopted in 2015, but progress has been lagging.
Around 733 million people faced hunger in 2023, equivalent to one in eleven people globally and one in five in Africa, according to the annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, released in Rio on Wednesday.
There was a sharp upturn in people facing moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and since then numbers have remained stubbornly high despite progress in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a statement accompanying the launch of the report.
“A future free from hunger is possible if we can rally the resources and the political will needed to invest in proven long-term solutions,” said World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain in the statement.
As well as spotlighting hunger and poverty, Brazilian diplomats are using the presidency of the G20 to push for the reform of global governance institutions and advocate for a sustainable energy transition.
Those efforts are part of Lula’s bid to pitch his nation – and himself — as leader for the Global South.
The alliance against hunger and poverty “allows Brazil to position itself as a leader because it is bringing an issue dear to the world’s poorest countries to a forum where they are not represented, the G20,” said Eduardo Mello, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation think tank and university.
But there is a lack of political will because of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, Mello said.


Gaza ceasefire deal in ‘closing stages’: US official

Updated 54 sec ago
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Gaza ceasefire deal in ‘closing stages’: US official

  • The official played down a fiery speech to Congress by Netanyahu in which he pledged ‘total victory’
  • He added that the talks with Biden Thursday would be more focused on the mechanics of a deal

WASHINGTON: Negotiations for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal are in their “closing stages,” a US official said Wednesday, ahead of talks between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden will try to close some “final gaps” in his talks with Netanyahu at the White House on Thursday but key elements including the fate of the hostages remain in Hamas’s court, the senior administration official said.

“We believe it’s in the closing stages and a deal is closeable,” the US official said on condition of anonymity in a call previewing Netanyahu’s visit.

There would be a “lot of activity in the coming week” toward reaching a long-sought deal, said the official, adding that an agreement was “not only possible, it’s essential and necessary.”

The US official played down a fiery speech to Congress by Netanyahu on Wednesday in which he pledged “total victory,” saying that the talks with Biden would be more focused on the mechanics of a deal.

A possible truce now hinges on a handful of issues about how a deal would come into effect, with Hamas having eased its demand for a full Israeli pull-out, the official said.

“I don’t expect the meeting (with Netanyahu) to be a yes or no, it’s a kind of like ‘how do we close these final gaps?’ And there are some things we need from the Israeli side, no question,” the official said.

“But there’s also some key things that are only in the hands of Hamas because the hostages are in the hands of Hamas.”

A Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Out of 251 people taken hostage that day, 114 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including 42 who the military says are dead.

More than 39,100 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war broke out, according to data provided by the health ministry of Hamas-run Gaza.


Three dead in shooting among Ukrainian troops

Updated 9 min 33 sec ago
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Three dead in shooting among Ukrainian troops

  • No further details were provided and the army did not say who was responsible, saying only that weaponry had been used for ‘personal’ rather than military reasons

KYIV:  A shooting incident among Ukrainian soldiers stationed in the northeastern Kharkiv region has left three soldiers dead and four others seriously wounded, the Ukrainian army said Wednesday.

No further details were provided and the army did not say who was responsible, saying only that weaponry had been used for “personal” rather than military reasons.

“In one of the units, soldiers used firearms on the basis of personal relationships. As a result of the shooting, three soldiers were killed and four others were injured,” the “Khortytsia” regional grouping of the Ukrainian army said.

The wounded suffered “serious” injuries and law enforcement officials were at the scene, it said.

“Management is taking all necessary measures to prevent such incidents in the future,” it added.

Violence among fellow soldiers is a sensitive issue in both Russia and Ukraine, but mass shootings are rare.

In January 2022, weeks before Russia invaded, a 21-year-old Ukrainian national guard conscript killed four fellow soldiers and a civilian with an assault rifle at an aerospace factory.

In May 2024, a 57-year-old Russian soldier recruited from a penal colony was reported to have shot dead six of his fellow troops in the eastern Donetsk region.


Rushdie attacker indicted on terrorism charges

Updated 24 July 2024
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Rushdie attacker indicted on terrorism charges

NEW YORK: The man accused of trying to kill the author Salman Rushdie in a stabbing attack in 2022 has been indicted on separate US federal terrorism charges, according to documents unsealed Wednesday.
Hadi Matar, a 26-year-old American of Lebanese descent who was already charged by the state of New York for the attack, has now been indicted by a grand jury on three counts that include attempting to provide material to support a foreign terrorist organization, said the indictment dated July 17 but not unsealed until now.
That organization is Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, the US Justice Department said.


France and Djibouti renew defense partnership

Updated 24 July 2024
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France and Djibouti renew defense partnership

  • Accord, signed at Macron’s office, governs the 1,500 French troops based in the small but strategically located East African country
  • Defense agreement was first signed in 1977 when the former French colony won independence, and was renewed in 2011

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron and his Djibouti counterpart Ismail Omar Guelleh agreed Wednesday to renew the defense partnership between the two countries, following two years of negotiations.
According to a statement from the French presidency, they signed an agreement on “the ambitious reform of the Defense Cooperation Treaty which unites France and Djibouti.”
The accord, signed at Macron’s office, governs the 1,500 French troops based in the small but strategically located East African country.
French troops have recently closed military bases in Mali and Niger following military coups in both countries, but there has never been any question of abandoning Djibouti, France’s largest permanent overseas base.
The country is located opposite Yemen, near an opening to the Red Sea, where a large part of the global trade between Asia and the West passes.
The discussions had been held up by Djibouti’s demands that France greatly increase the rent it pays, according to a source close to the negotiations.
The defense agreement was first signed in 1977 when the former French colony won independence, and was renewed in 2011.
But France only began to pay rent in 2003, following the opening of a US base in the country.