Blinken Arrives in Italy for Talks on Israel and Ukraine at G7 Meeting

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrived in Italy on Wednesday for a gathering of foreign ministers from the Group of 7 nations at which the Middle East turmoil and the fate of Ukraine will be central topics.The meeting is taking place as world leaders try to contain the growing fallout from the war between Israel and Hamas. Most urgently, they are seeking to persuade Israel not to escalate its conflict with Iran in the wake of Iran’s strikes on Israel over the weekend, which did little damage but involved hundreds of missiles and drones and prompted calls within Israel for a punishing response.At the opening session, the officials will also discuss Israel’s invasion of Gaza and international efforts to reach a cease-fire deal.The G7 is a conference of seven industrialized democracies — Italy, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Britain and the United States — as well as representatives of the European Union. The meeting, which is being held on the Mediterranean island of Capri, is a prelude to a summit of G7 leaders scheduled for mid-June in Puglia, Italy.The G7, which often issues joint proclamations about world events, released a statement on Sunday condemning “in the strongest terms Iran’s direct and unprecedented attack against Israel.” The group also said it would work to “end the crisis in Gaza” through “an immediate and sustainable cease-fire and the release of hostages by Hamas,” and increase the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory.Talks to at least pause the fighting in exchange for the release of hostages and more aid deliveries have been snagged for weeks. U.S. officials say Hamas has rejected credible Israeli offers and is the main obstacle to resolving the conflict, even as international pressure grows on Israel because of the civilian toll in Gaza.An official agenda for the three-day event this week said the group would discuss “the pursuit of a meaningful and effective political approach” toward the “‘two peoples, two states’ solution,” a reference to the goal of establishing an eventual Palestinian state alongside Israel. The United States and several other nations have revived that longtime objective in recent months, but Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reject it.Another related session will focus on the Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen, whose attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea have disrupted global commerce and drawn dozens of U.S. airstrikes.And on the topic that dominated their past two meetings, the G7 ministers will affirm their support for the defense of Ukraine against Russia amid grave worries about whether a package of more than $60 billion in aid proposed by President Biden can surmount opposition from a minority of House Republicans. Western and Ukrainian officials warn that Ukraine is in danger of suffering substantial losses to Russia, and even defeat, without significant long-term support.The European Union’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said in a statement that the group would “hold a discussion on ensuring continued support to Ukraine,” which would include Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, and NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.The ministers are likely to debate proposals to seize some or all of $300 billion in Russian assets that Western banks have frozen since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Western governments are divided on the advisability and legal justification for such a move but have discussed compromises, including potentially seizing and sending to Kyiv only the interest generated by those accounts since they were frozen.In an interview with Reuters, Italy’s foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, who is hosting the gathering, said that his country was not outright opposed to the idea but that it required “study” to find a “legal basis.”Other sessions will focus on Africa, the Indo-Pacific and global issues such as climate change, artificial intelligence and cyberthreats.On arrival in Italy, Mr. Blinken turned his attention to foreign misinformation and propaganda — a particular U.S. concern regarding Russia and China — and signed a memorandum of understanding with Mr. Tajani on countering the threat.Mr. Blinken called it “one of the critical challenges that our countries and other democracies are facing.”

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