FILE PHOTO: A bus carrying delegates arrives at G20 finance officials meeting venue near Bengaluru, India, February 22, 2023. REUTERS/Samuel Rajkumar
By Rupam Jain and Neha Arora
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The year-long Russian war in Ukraine took centre stage on the eve of a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday with the EU foreign policy chief saying its success would be measured by what it could do to help end the conflict.
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 by saying it would counter Russian “propaganda” at the G20 meeting. Washington said it was important the G20 continue to call out Russia.
The foreign ministers’ meeting comes days after a meeting of finance chiefs of G20 countries in Bengaluru that was also overshadowed by the Ukraine conflict.
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.
The main G20 meetings will be held on Thursday after a welcome dinner on Wednesday.
The German, French and Chinese foreign ministers and Blinken would not be attending the dinner as they would not arrive in New Delhi in time, said a senior Indian diplomat overseeing the diplomatic engagements organised on the sidelines.
Lavrov would attend and be seated with the delegation from the United Arab Emirates and East Asian countries as requested by the Russian Embassy, the diplomat said.
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.
“I think from our perspective it’s important that the G20 continue to call out Russia on its war of aggression,” a senior State Department official told reporters aboard Blinken’s plane from Tashkent to Delhi.
India buying Russian oil is a “constant source of discussion” between the U.S. and India and the U.S. will continue to raise this, but India is buying oil at or below the price cap, which was helping to stabilise oil markets and deny Russia revenues, the official said.
India has declined to blame Russia for the war, seeking a diplomatic solution and sharply boosting its purchases of Russian oil.
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”.
The meeting is also being watched for how tensions between Washington and Beijing play out, including over Ukraine and the U.S. shooting down last month of what it said was a Chinese spy balloon that had drifted over North America.
State Department officials said the U.S. would continue to talk to other countries about the information it has that China is considering giving lethal aid to Russia, but don’t expect this to be discussed in the G20 forum.