Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Matera, Italy, June 29, 2021.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Matera, Italy, June 29, 2021.

The coronavirus, climate change and food security are on the agenda Tuesday as foreign ministers from the G-20 group of nations meet in Italy.

The talks in the city of Matera represent the first time the ministers are gathering in person since 2019.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement Tuesday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would stress the importance of working together to address such global challenges, a common theme in recent months as he and President Joe Biden set a foreign policy path heavily focused on boosting ties with allies. 
 
“Multilateralism is our best tool for tackling global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, global health security, the climate crisis; and preventing famine and food insecurity, responding to democratic backsliding and rising autocracy, and building a sustainable economic recovery,” the statement read.   
 
“To address the climate crisis, Secretary Blinken will encourage G-20 members to work together toward ambitious outcomes, including a recognition of the need to keep a 1.5 degree Celsius of warming threshold within reach, the importance of actions this decade that are aligned with that goal and taking other steps like committing to end public finance for overseas unabated coal,” Susannah Cooper, director of the Office of Monetary Affairs in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, told reporters ahead of the meetings.

Cooper said Blinken would advocate for “building a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery,” including an equitable global tax system with a minimum corporate tax rate.

Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio sits down to begin a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Matera, Italy, June 29, 2021.

Global minimum tax

Finance ministers from G-7 nations, all of which are part of the G-20, agreed in principle in early June to the creation of a global minimum tax on corporations that would force companies that shift profits to subsidiaries in low- or no-tax jurisdictions to pay as much as 15% in taxes on that income to the country where they are headquartered.   

Tuesday’s meetings are also set to consider economic development issues in Africa, including gender equity and opportunities for young people, as well as humanitarian efforts and human rights. 
 
“The United States will partner with African governments, multilateral organizations and the private sector to substantially increase two-way trade and investment with African countries in order to drive democratic, sustainable, climate-friendly and equitable growth, and to create quality jobs for people in Africa and the United States,” the State Department said.  
 
The U.S. foreign policy agency also said America “will continue to engage with G-20 and other international partners to address humanitarian and human rights challenges in Africa, especially the conflict-induced famine and ongoing abuses and atrocities in Ethiopia.”

Italy is the last stop on a European trip for Blinken that included a conference on Libya in Germany, meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio, center, pose for a family photo as they host a meeting of US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Rome on June 28, 2021.

Fight against Islamic State

On Monday, he was in Rome, where ministers from a global coalition to fight Islamic State terrorists said 8 million people have been freed from the militants’ control in Iraq and Syria, but that the threat from IS fighters remains there and in Africa.

The ministers pledged to maintain a watch against a resurgence of the insurgents. 

The resumption in ISIS “activities and its ability to rebuild its networks and capabilities to target security forces and civilians in areas in Iraq and Syria where the coalition is not active requires strong vigilance and coordinated action,” the diplomats said in a concluding communique. 

The coalition said it needed “both to address the drivers that make communities vulnerable to recruitment by Daesh/ISIS and related violent ideological groups, as well as to provide support to liberated areas to safeguard our collective security interests.” 

The group “noted with grave concern that Daesh/ISIS affiliates and networks in sub-Saharan Africa threaten security and stability, namely in the Sahel region and in East Africa/Mozambique.” The coalition said it would work with any country that requested help in fighting ISIS. 

Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. 

“We’ve made great progress because we’ve been working together, so we hope you’ll keep an eye on the fight, keep up the fight against this terrorist organization until it is decisively defeated,” Blinken said at the start of the meeting.

Blinken noted that 10,000 IS militants are being detained by Syrian Democratic Forces, calling the situation “simply untenable” and calling on governments to repatriate their citizens for rehabilitation or prosecution. 

The top U.S. diplomat announced $436 million in additional humanitarian aid for Syrians and communities in surrounding countries that have been hosting Syrian refugees. He said the money would go toward providing food, water, shelter, health care, education and protection. 

The United States launched a coalition effort, now involving 83 members, aimed at defeating IS in 2014 after the militants seized control of a large area across northern Syria and Iraq. In 2019, the U.S. declared the militants had been ousted from their last remaining territory.   

Syria

Another meeting Monday in Italy focused specifically on Syria, where in addition to issues related to IS, Blinken, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi De Maio and other ministers called for renewed efforts to bring an end to the decadelong conflict that began in 2011.   

Humanitarian access, in particular the ability for the United Nations to deliver cross-border aid, were among the issues that Blinken highlighted, the State Department said.   

He also expressed U.S. support for an immediate cease-fire in Syria.