EU, Russia take strong positions as Ukraine war takes centrestage on G20 meet eve

The year-long Russian war in Ukraine took centrestage on the eve of a G20 foreign ministers meeting on Wednesday with the European Union foreign policy chief saying the success of the gathering in New Delhi would be measured by what it could do about the conflict and its impact, Reuters reported.

Russia said it would use the meeting to tell the world who, according to Moscow, was responsible for the political and economic crises the world finds itself in.

Germany responded saying it would counter Russian “propaganda” at the G20 meeting.

The foreign ministers meeting comes days after a meeting of finance chiefs of G20 countries in Bengaluru that was also overshadowed by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Delegates at the Bengaluru meeting wrangled over condemning Russia for the war, failed to reach a consensus on a joint statement and settled instead for a summary document.

“This war has to be condemned,” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told reporters.

“I hope, I am sure that India’s diplomatic capacity will be used in order to make Russia understand that this war has to finish,” Borrell said.

An EU source separately said the EU delegation would not support a statement at the G20 meeting if it did not include condemnation of the war.

The comments came hours after Russia said it considered the G20 a prestigious forum “where balanced consensus decisions should be made in the interests of all humankind”.

“We intend to firmly and openly talk about the reasons and instigators of the current serious problems in world politics and the global economy,” the Russian Embassy in New Delhi said in a statement late on Tuesday.

“The destructive policy of the U.S. and its allies has already put the world on the brink of a disaster, provoked a rollback in socio-economic development and seriously aggravated the situation of the poorest countries,” it said.

IMPACT OF WAR

The New Delhi meeting is being attended by 40 delegations, including those headed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

Lavrov arrived late on Tuesday and held talks with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Wednesday. He is also scheduled to meet his Chinese, Bangladeshi and South African counterparts.

A German foreign ministry spokesperson said in Berlin that Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock “will not allow Russia to take the stage and will firmly oppose Russian propaganda if necessary, as she has done in the past”.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said London would seek to work with New Delhi to make the meeting successful. Cleverly will meet Qin on the sidelines, but not Lavrov.

“Our position is that Russia’s behaviour has made direct interactions with them at ministerial level inappropriate,” he told Reuters.

Blinken said he had no plans to meet either Lavrov or Qin.

“No plans to see either at the G20, although I suspect that we will certainly be in group sessions of one kind or another together,” Blinken told reporters in Tashkent.

The main G20 meetings will be held on Thursday after a welcome dinner on Wednesday.

The G20 includes the wealthy G7 nations as well as Russia, China, India, Brazil, Australia and Saudi Arabia, among other nations.

Host India said the war in Ukraine would be an important point of discussion but “questions relating to food, energy and fertiliser security, the impact that the conflict has on these economic challenges that we face” would also receive “due focus”.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, the country’s top diplomat, said he also expected a clear message on terrorism. The role of crypto currencies would be a part of the message, he said.

The meeting is also being watched for how tensions between Washington and Beijing play out, including over the Ukraine war and the U.S. shooting down last month of what it said was a Chinese spy balloon that had drifted over North America.

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