G20 meeting in India marred by bitter divisions over the Ukraine conflict

Disputes over Russia’s war in Ukraine have dominated G20 talks, with hosts India declaring that there will be no joint statement.

The meeting had been marred by Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified war,” according to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The West was accused of “blackmail and threats” by Russia’s foreign minister.

India had wanted to focus on other issues affecting developing nations, but it said the differences over Ukraine “could not be reconciled”.

“We tried, but the distance between the countries was too great,” said India’s foreign minister, S Jaishankar.

The G20, which consists of the world’s 19 richest countries plus the European Union, accounts for 85% of global economic output and two-thirds of its population.

The group’s foreign ministers were meeting in Delhi under India’s presidency, including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, the United States’ Antony Blinken, and China’s Qin Gang. It was the first meeting of top US and Russian diplomats since the war began a little more than a year ago.

For the first time since the invasion, Blinken and Lavrov meet.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, attended the meeting in Delhi.
Caption for an image,
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leads the Russian delegation.
Mr Blinken met Mr Lavrov on the sidelines for about 10 minutes and told him the West would stand by Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” according to a senior State Department official. Mr. Blinken also urged Russia to rejoin and abide by the terms of the New Start nuclear arms control treaty, from which it recently withdrew.

Russian officials denied that any talks had taken place. Previously, Russia accused the West of “burying” a deal to allow some Ukrainian grain exports, but the US responded by saying Moscow was impeding Ukrainian exports.

Meanwhile, Russian officials said Moscow and Beijing had agreed to oppose “Western blackmail and threats,” but China has not confirmed this.

“We’re talking about etiquette. Our Western counterparts, on the other hand, have gotten really bad at these “Mr. Lavrov stated following the talks on Thursday. “They no longer think in terms of diplomacy; they now only deal in blackmail and threatening everyone else.”

The Ukraine conflict casts a pall over India’s G20 ambitions.
Why is India not criticising Russia over the Ukraine crisis?
The session was opened by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who warned that global divisions were jeopardising sustainable development.

“Many developing countries are grappling with unsustainable debt while attempting to ensure food and energy security,” he explained.

“They are also disproportionately affected by global warming caused by wealthier countries.”

Mr Modi delivered a rare speech in English, demonstrating how seriously he wanted his message to be taken. He made no direct reference to the Ukrainian conflict, but he acknowledged that geopolitical tensions would influence discussions.

The agenda for Thursday included sessions on food security, development cooperation, terrorism, and humanitarian assistance, reflecting India’s priorities during its G20 presidency.

Prior to the talks, a former Indian diplomat told the BBC that India would have to “do something special” to persuade delegates to put aside their differences on the war. Tense relations between the United States and China, which has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion, were also expected to put India’s ability to reach an agreement to the test.

After Thursday’s talks, Foreign Minister Jaishankar was forced to present what is known as a chair’s summary, indicating that participants were unable to reach a joint statement. Russia and China were the only countries that refused to condemn the war.

But India did succeed in its main objective of raising a voice for the Global South and Mr Jaishankar said that “on the bulk of issues we were able to get an outcome document”.

There are still several months of diplomacy before the G20 leaders meet in September, and Delhi will be hoping that its presidency does not end on a low note.

According to experts, Delhi also had the difficult task of balancing its non-aligned policy on the war with pleas to other nations to find ways to collaborate.

India has resisted pressure and maintained its policy of not directly criticising Russia, India’s largest arms supplier. It has consistently voted against UN resolutions condemning the war in Ukraine, including a vote at the UN General Assembly last week.

It has also defended its decision to increase oil imports from Russia, claiming that it must meet the needs of its people.

However, it has previously stated the importance of “the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” in its statements on Ukraine.

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