G20 diplomats fail to unite on Ukraine and impact of war

NUSADUA, Indonesia –

Deeply divided senior diplomats from the world’s largest and richest developing nations failed to find common ground Friday on Russia’s war in Ukraine and how to deal with its global impacts, leaving prospects for future cooperation at the forum uncertain.

In talks that were interrupted by two unexpected and unrelated political developments, including the shocking assassination of a former Japanese prime minister, far from the Indonesian resort of Bali where they were meeting, foreign ministers from the Group of 20 heard a emotional call to unity. and the end of the war by their Indonesian host.

However, consensus remained elusive amid deepening East-West divides fueled by China and Russia on one side and the United States and Europe on the other. No group photo was taken or final statement issued as has been the case in previous years, and acrimony seemed to be widespread, especially between Russia and Western participants.

Although present in the same room at the same time for the first time since the Ukraine war began, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov deliberately ignored each other.

Lavrov walked out of the proceedings at least twice: once when his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock spoke at the opening session and once just before Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke via video at the second session, according to a western diplomat present.

The meeting began just hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday, prompting his Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to leave Bali, and was underway when the former prime minister was shot. Japanese, Shinzo Abe. Abe later died from his injuries.

Both Johnson and Abe are well known in the G20 family, having participated in numerous similar leaders’ conferences and summits in the past. One of the goals of Friday’s meeting was to lay the groundwork for the next G20 summit that Indonesia will host in November.

Many, if not all, of the participants expressed shock at the shooting of Abe that occurred while holding the first of two plenary sessions on the importance of restoring confidence in multilateralism and upholding the rules-based world order.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi urged the group, which included Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Blinken and several European counterparts, to overcome mistrust for the sake of a planet facing multiple challenges, from the coronavirus to climate change, as well as Ukraine.

“The world has yet to recover from the pandemic, but we are already facing another crisis: the war in Ukraine,” Marsudi said. “Ripple effects are being felt globally in food, energy and physical space.”

Noting that poor and developing countries are now facing the brunt of fuel and grain shortages as a result of the war in Ukraine, he said that the G20 has a responsibility to step up and address the issue to ensure that the global order based on in rules remains relevant. .

The Ukraine war has shaken that order, he said, as Lavrov appeared to shuffle papers expressionlessly in his seat between the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

“Honestly, we cannot deny that it has become more difficult for the world to sit together,” Marsudi said. He added plaintively: “The world is watching us, so we cannot fail.”

But after the meeting ended, Marsudi was unable to point to any agreement reached by all participants, although he said there was serious concern about food and energy disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine. He added that only “some countries expressed their condemnation of the act of invasion.”

In fact, although they sat around the same large conference table, neither Lavrov nor Blinken spoke to each other.

“You know, it was not us who abandoned all contacts,” Lavrov told reporters after the first session. “It was the United States. This is all I can say. And we don’t go after anyone who suggests meetings. If they don’t want to talk, it’s their choice.”

When asked why there hadn’t been a group photo, Lavrov replied: “I didn’t invite anyone to pose for a photo with me.”

“It is obvious that they used the G-20 for purposes that were not intended when it was created,” he said.

Shortly after, Blinken took direct aim at the Russian delegation, accusing Moscow at the second session of the G-20 of blocking millions of tons of grain in Ukrainian ports and causing food insecurity in much of the world, according to a Western diplomat present.

Lavrov was not there for Blinken’s remarks and his deputy began Russia’s remarks by telling the group he had no comments prepared, according to the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door meeting.

US officials had said they were determined not to let distractions divert attention from what they believe should be the main focuses of the Bali conference: the disruption of global food and energy supplies caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. , blaming Moscow for it and mounting a response to stop the shortages that are already wreaking havoc in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

US officials had hinted that there would not be a statement from the group as there has been in previous years when the group produced joint statements on key issues such as terrorism, transnational crime, climate and economic issues that have been seen as models for action. global.

US officials said it was less important for the G-20 to present a unified position as an entity than it was for smaller blocs of countries and individual nations to speak up and take action.

The competition for support between the sides has been fierce. Wang and Lavrov stopped in various Asian capitals on their way to Bali, drumming up support for various Chinese and Russian positions and strengthening their ties between non-allied nations.

Blinken, the French, Germans and British, meanwhile, arrived in Bali from two organized, Western-oriented meetings in Europe last week: the G-7 and NATO summits at which there was little sign of rancor or debate and unity. over Ukraine was safe.

With a broader membership, including countries like host Indonesia and large developing nations like India, Brazil, South Africa and others, the G-20 is much more diverse, skeptical of Western intentions and more open to pleas and offers of big neighbors like China and China. Russia and more vulnerable to its threats.

Attempting to take a middle course, this year’s G20 chair Indonesia has tried to bridge possible gaps, presenting an agenda that is not inherently divisive or political. The country has tried to remain neutral in dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and President Joko Widodo has been cautious in his comments.

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