Stormy meeting in Delhi breaks up without joint statement as west and Moscow spar over Ukraine
Russia has accused the west of blackmail and threats and claimed it had China’s support for its position at a stormy meeting of G20 foreign ministers in India, dominated by the war in Ukraine.
The event broke up with no joint communique, only a summary of the meeting prepared by the host, India, the group’s current chair.
On the sidelines of the meeting, in Delhi, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, spoke briefly to Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, to tell him the US would not back down in its support for Ukraine.
Neither side described the 10-minute encounter, the first direct meeting between the two men since June 2022, as talks. Blinken also urged Moscow to reconsider its decision to suspend participation in the Start Treaty and to release Paul Whelan, an American convicted in Russia for espionage.
After a meeting between Lavrov and the Chinese delegation, the Russian foreign ministry released a statement that said: “A unanimous rejection was expressed of attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, to impose unilateral approaches through blackmail and threats, and to oppose the democratisation of international relations.”
Russia appeared to be claiming that Blinken was putting pressure on delegations at the G20 to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, or support sanctions against China if Beijing decided to arm Moscow.
Blinken told the G20 meeting: “We must continue to call on Russia to end its war of aggression and withdraw from Ukraine for the sake of international peace and economic stability”. He urged China not to supply arms to Russia: “It cannot publicly present itself as a force for peace while, in one way or another, it continues to fan the flames of the fire that Vladimir Putin lit.”
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said a ‘dictated peace against the will of the victims is out of the question’.
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also asked China not to take such a step, telling the German parliament: “My message to Beijing is clear: use your influence in Moscow to urge the withdrawal of Russian troops. And don’t deliver any weapons to the aggressor, Russia.”
China has repeatedly denied suggestions it might arm Moscow, but the US administration has recently said that cooperation between China and Russia might soon include supplying weapons.
Speaking in the Bundestag while foreign ministers gathered in India, Scholz mounted one of his strongest defences against Germany’s support for Ukraine, saying: “A dictated peace against the will of the victims is out of the question.”
Efforts by India to steer the issue of Ukraine off the agenda largely failed, as western politicians used Lavrov’s presence at the conference to demand Russia bring the year-long war to an immediate end.
Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, in a video address, had urged all sides to focus on points of potential agreement. “[The] financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism and wars – clearly shows that global governance has failed,” he said.
Admitting that foreign ministers were meeting at a time of deep global divisions, he said that countries “should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can”.
India has refused to condemn Russia at the UN security council and has increased its imports of Russian oil. Modi has offered himself as a potential peacemaker in the conflict.
But his call for the G20 to focus on how to tackle issues such as the climate crisis were largely ignored, as the west sparred with Lavrov.
Lavrov, according to Russian media accounts, claimed the west was turning the work on the G20 agenda into a “farce” and said western delegations wanted to shift responsibility for their economic failures on to Moscow. He accused them of seeking to bury the Black Sea grain initiative, the deal that has kept Ukrainian grain flowing out of the Black Sea ports, often to developing countries facing acute food shortages and inflation.
Russia and the west have been involved in a growing propaganda war to convince the global south that the knock-on effects of the war are the fault of their adversary. More than 40 nations at the UN, many in Africa, have refused to back resolutions calling for Russia to end the invasion.
The most caustic remarks were made by Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister and a Green politician, and the fiercest critic of Russia inside the German coalition government.
“Unfortunately, one G20 member prevents all the other 19 from focusing all their efforts on these issues the G20 was created for,” she said. Addressing the Russian minister directly, she said: “It is good that you are here in the hall to listen. Stop the war. Not in a month or a year, but today. Because every family that loses a father, a brother, a mother, a child loses a whole world.”
Baerbock said that while there were different perspectives on the war in Ukraine among the G20 members, “what unites us all is that there is not a single place in the world where the Russian war has had positive consequences”.
( International )