New Delhi: The Group of 20 or G20 foreign ministers met here, on Thursday, and discussed a range of issues, including climate change, food and energy security, gender issues, global health, multilateralism, terrorism, etc. However, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war loomed large over the meeting, which eventually stopped the foreign ministers of the member nations from issuing a joint statement.
India, which is chairing the G20 this year, tried to play down the group’s failure to issue a joint statement. India’s foreign minister, S Jaishankar, stated that the G20 member nations have adopted a summary of India’s outcome document after consensus on many important points.
Speaking on the failure of the G20 foreign ministers to issue a joint communique, Jaishankar said, “There were a large number of issues where there was agreement: multilateralism, food and energy security, climate change, gender issues, global health, terrorism. There was a considerable meeting of minds,” adding, “If we had a perfect meeting of minds, we could have had a collective statement, but divergences on Ukraine did come in the way of that.”
He then said, “Despite differences on (the) Ukraine (conflict), we all were able to reach consensus on other issues.” He also said all G20 member states condemned terrorism in all its forms. During this year’s G20 foreign ministers’ meeting, the members also discussed counternarcotics for the first time.
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The war between Russia and Ukraine, which is now into its second year, loomed large over the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. During the meeting, Russia accused the west of turning work on the G20 agenda into a “farce” and said the western delegations wanted to shift the responsibility for their economic failures onto the Russian Federation.
Russia describes its ongoing attempt to invade and occupy Ukraine as a “special military operation” to “eliminate security threats”.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said, “If we see these countries (from the west), they were conquering land and exploiting the people. Unfortunately, the west did not drop its neocolonial habits ... it is still promoting their interests without considering the interests of the global community.”
Accusing some countries of caving under western pressure to take sides, Lavrov said, “Some of them (nations) under pressure say certain things or vote in a certain manner to relieve themselves from the United States’ pressure, but almost no developing country, almost none of them, joined the west to impose sanctions against Russia because they are aware what kind of game west is playing.”
In his address, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said, “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.” “Unfortunately, this meeting has again been marred by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine,” he added.
The US secretary was backed by his European counterparts from France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
It may be noted that the addresses by the foreign ministers took place behind closed doors and statements were released by officials after they had finished their speeches.
India has been playing neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war. India and Russia have longstanding defence and trade ties. Currently, around 70 per cent of Indian defence equipment is of Russian origin. After the Russia-Ukraine war started, Russia became India’s largest vendor of crude oil, which Moscow had been selling to New Delhi at a heavily discounted rate.
India had been seeking a diplomatic solution to end the Russia-Ukraine war since Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine in February 2022.