Thursday, December 8, 2022

G-20 to hold tough on Russia, urge end to war

Leaders of the world’s largest economies remain divided over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but they appeared ready Tuesday to convey a strong message from most condemning the nine-month war that has devastated Ukraine and sent food and energy prices soaring.
A draft declaration by leaders of the Group of 20 major economies under discussion Tuesday echoes the condemnation of Russia’s war on Ukraine by the United Nations, while acknowledging differing views among members.
The statement seen Tuesday by The Associated Press “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation” and “demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.” The draft statement reiterates the stance expressed in the UN General Assembly’s March 2 resolution. The G-20 draft statement also noted there were different views on the situation and sanctions against Russia, saying that the G-20 was not the forum for resolving security issues.
The careful wording of the statement reflects tensions prevailing at the gathering, which includes leaders from Russia and China as well as many other countries trying to avoid becoming entangled in antagonisms between the big powers. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joined US President Joe Biden in trying to persuade the G-20 to further isolate Russia diplomatically and economically, despite a souring global financial outlook that has tested many nations’ resolve.
Inflation and slowing economies are weighing on countries that have imposed penalties on Russia for starting the war.
Higher costs for energy and food have destabilised business activity around the world, as much of Europe prepares to brave the winter without imports of Russian natural gas. In opening the summit, Indonesian President Joko Widodo impressed on the gathering what’s at stake.
“If the war does not end, it will be difficult for the world to move forward,” Widodo said. “We should not divide the world into parts. We must not allow the world to fall into another cold war.”
In a video address, Zelenskyy reiterated 10 conditions for ending the conflict that began in February, among them a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and full restoration of Ukrainian control of its territory. “Ukraine should not be offered to conclude compromises with its conscience, sovereignty, territory and independence,” he said. The European Council president, Charles Michel, also urged other global powers to intensify pressure on Russia. But it was unclear how many nations would embrace the relatively tough language in a final statement.
The US and its allies have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with export controls and other sanctions, making it harder for Russia’s military to access key technologies and resupply with drones, artillery and other weapons.
Chinese officials have largely refrained from public criticism of Russia’s war, although Beijing has avoided direct support of the Russians, such as supplying arms. Biden said that during his meeting Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping they discussed the war and “reaffirmed our shared belief” that the use or even the threat of nuclear weapons was “totally unacceptable” — a reference to Moscow’s thinly veiled threats to use atomic weapons as its invasion of Ukraine has faltered.
Xi told G-20 leaders the global economy should not on principle be weaponised.
“We must resolutely oppose the attempt to politicize food and energy issues or use them as tools and weapons,” Xi said in translated remarks. “Unilateral sanctions must be removed, and restrictions on relevant scientific and technological cooperation must be lifted.”
After meeting with Xi, French President Emmanuel Macron said they had called for “respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”
In a tweet, Macron said France and China were determined to “put an end to the escalation of the war in Ukraine and deal with its consequences.”
US officials have said Biden’s trip shows countries large and small are willing to condemn Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin stayed away, sending his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.
The summit schedule does not include the customary “family photo” of leaders, avoiding a potentially awkward moment of interaction with the Russian representative, Lavrov.
It remained to be seen how Biden and US allies might react when Lavrov is recognised to speak during the summit’s closed sessions. Some Europeans have mentioned potentially walking out of the meeting to protest Russia’s invasion.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said no one in the US delegation had plans to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often known as MBS, after Biden accused Saudi Arabia of siding with Russia by leading the OPEC+ cartel to cut oil production last month in a bid to sustain the elevated energy prices that Russia uses to fund its war in Ukraine.
It also was not clear whether anyone from the US delegation would meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi or other leaders whose cooperation is needed to secure a price cap on Russian oil to limit the profits Moscow uses to invest in its defence base.
The summit is the first for two critical new partners in Biden’s effort: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni.
Sunak, who took office last month after the disastrously short tenure of Liz Truss, has promised to continue his conservative predecessors’ steadfast support for Ukraine. He and Biden were set to strategise during their Wednesday meeting on new ways to bolster Ukraine’s defences for the long haul.
Meloni has pledged to continue to provide arms and aid for Ukraine, but questions remain over her far-right coalition’s commitment to stand up to Russia. She was to meet with Biden privately on Tuesday afternoon.
One leader who will be absent is Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who tested positive for COVID-19 after his arrival in Bali and said he was returning home. So far, no other leaders are known to have tested positive, though many of those in Bali also attended meetings with Hun Sen just days ago during a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian nations.

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