When U.S. President Donald Trump and other leaders of the world’s seven major industrialised nations gather in Sicily on Friday, they will enjoy a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea, but won’t get any glimpse of boats full of migrants.
A common sight off Sicily in recent years, the authorities have banned all migrant landings on the island during the Group of Seven Summit for security reasons, telling rescue vessels that pick them up at sea to take them to the mainland during the two-day meeting.
Out of sight does not mean out of mind. Italy chose to host the summit in Taormina, on the cliffs of eastern Sicily, to concentrate minds on Europe’s migrant crisis and to seek ways of developing Africa’s economy to hold back the human tide.
“Africa is very important for us. Indeed, it is perhaps the focus of our G7 presidency,” said Raffaele Trombetta, the senior Italian diplomat who has led behind-the-scenes negotiations on the G7 agenda with colleagues from the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France and Canada.
“We don’t just want to talk about crises, like migration and famine, but also to promote innovation in Africa and see what we can do to help,” he told Reuters.
But various other crises are bound to encroach on the meeting, starting with Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester that killed at least 22 people and was allegedly carried out by a young British man of Libyan descent.
The six-year old Syrian conflict and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are other hot-button issues. Potential disagreements over climate change and free trade might also overshadow the event in the chic resort town.
Trump will face concerted pressure to commit to the 2015 Paris Agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions and to water down his protectionist trade tendencies.
Diplomats said there had been no agreement on these issues ahead of the gathering, meaning the leaders will seek to strike an accord amongst themselves. One diplomat from an EU country said the other G7 nations might issue a separate statement on climate change if Trump refused to endorse the Paris deal.