G20 agree on draft communique despite divisions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Updated on Nov 14, 2022 10:28 PM IST

Diplomats agreed on the wording of the communique after wrangling over wording related to the Russian invasion but the draft will need to be approved by leaders at their meeting, Bloomberg reported

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by Indian community after arriving in Bali to attend the G20 Summit, on Monday. (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by Indian community after arriving in Bali to attend the G20 Summit, on Monday. (PTI)

New Delhi: Negotiations between G20 members on a joint communiqué to be issued at the conclusion of the summit in Bali went down to the wire on Monday because of deep divisions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people familiar with the matter said.

Diplomats agreed on the wording of the communique after wrangling over wording related to the Russian invasion but the draft will need to be approved by leaders at their meeting, Bloomberg reported late on Monday night, citing multiple officials. There was no official word on the development.

The teams of the 20 members led by their sherpas or personal representatives of the heads of state and government extended their closed-door consultations beyond midnight on Sunday after being unable to make a breakthrough, the people said. A three-member Indian team led by Sherpa Amitabh Kant was part of continuing efforts on Monday night to find common ground between G20 members, they said.

Given the sharp differences over a few paragraphs in the proposed text criticising the Russian invasion, diplomats from two G20 members said a consensus outcome document had been looking unlikely.

“Many G20 members will be quite happy with a chair’s statement,” one of the diplomats cited above said on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat was referring to a mechanism adopted by current G20 president Indonesia several times this year after meetings of the G20 foreign, finance and climate ministers all failed to produce joint communiqués. In July, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov walked out of a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bali after strong criticism of the Ukraine war by Western counterparts.

Lavrov is leading the Russian delegation to the G20 Summit, with President Vladimir Putin staying away and some reports suggesting that he may participate virtually.

Efforts by the US and its Western partners to retain language in the draft communiqué denouncing the war in Ukraine were blocked by China and Russia during negotiations, the people said. The Indonesian side pressed Western nations to make concessions over the language criticising Russia to ensure a joint communiqué.

In the absence of consensus, G20 members mulled other possibilities, including an outcome document that uses a generic formulation – such as the Indian side’s contention that is “not the era of war” – or a chair’s statement by Indonesia. There was also the possibility that Western countries could issue a separate statement of their own, the people said.

There was also no agreement on G20 leaders participating in a traditional group photo before beginning their discussions on Tuesday morning as Western leaders did not wish to be seen in images alongside Lavrov.

The first working session for G20 leaders on Tuesday, which will focus on food and energy security, is expected to include discussions on the Ukraine conflict and a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Indian side has already indicated it will use the summit to highlight the concerns of developing countries arising from the war, including the rising costs of food, fuel and fertilisers and inflation.

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