WASHINGTON – Foreign ministers from the world’s biggest nations are seeking to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on global energy and food security when they meet in Indonesia this week. Yet, rather than ensuring unity, the talks may exacerbate existing divisions over the conflict in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend the G20 meeting in the Indonesian resort of Bali, which will kick off the G20 leaders’ summit at the same time in November.
It will mark the first time Blinken and Lavrov have been in the same room, let alone in the same city, since January. There is no indication that the two will meet separately, but even without one-on-one with Lavrov, Blinken could find himself in some difficult discussions.
The State Department announced on Tuesday that Blinken would hold separate talks with Wang at a time when already extremely strained relations between the US and China have been worsened by Beijing’s friendly ties with Moscow.
And unlike recent leaders’ meetings with NATO partners and other like-minded people, Blinken will find himself among diplomats from countries wary of the U.S. approach to Ukraine and concerned about its impact on them.
US officials say that in addition to Wang, Blinken will hold bilateral talks in Bali with counterparts from countries that have not seen eye-to-eye with the West over the Russian invasion, particularly India, which has increased its purchases of Russian oil even as the US and Europe tried to stop this flow of revenue to Moscow.
In announcing that Blinken would meet Wang in Bali, the State Department had little to say about the possibility of him meeting Lavrov, whom the US has avoided since the February invasion of Ukraine.
The ministry said there would be no formal meeting between Blinken and Lavrov, whom US officials accuse of a lack of seriousness before, during and after the invasion of Ukraine.
“We would like to see the Russians take diplomacy seriously,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “We haven’t seen that yet. We would like the Russians to give us a reason to meet bilaterally with them, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, but the only thing we have seen coming from Moscow is more brutality and aggression against the people and country of Ukraine.
The Biden administration has argued that there cannot be “business as usual” with Moscow while the war continues. But neither Price nor other US officials could rule out a chance Blinken-Lavrov meeting in Bali, which would be their first since their last meeting in Geneva in January. Price declined to discuss what he called the “choreography” of the G20.
Like almost all recent international diplomatic meetings, the Bali meeting will be overshadowed by Ukraine. But unlike the Western-dominated G7 and NATO summits held in Europe last week, the G20 will have a different flavor.
China and many other actors, including India, South Africa and Brazil, opposed signing on to the US and Europe’s staunch opposition to Russia’s invasion. Some flatly refused Western pleas to join in condemning the conflict, which the US and its allies see as an attack on the rules-based international order that has prevailed since the end of World War II.
Thus, there may be difficulty in achieving a G20 consensus on efforts to mitigate the food and energy impacts of the conflict in Ukraine, particularly involving China and Russia. That won’t stop the U.S. from trying, according to U.S. officials.
They want to see the G20 throw its weight behind a UN-backed initiative to free up some 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain for export mainly to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
“We would like the G20 to hold Russia accountable and insist that it support this initiative,” said Ramin Tolui, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs.
While various nations, including G20 host Indonesia, have been pushing for Russia to ease its Black Sea blockade to allow the grain to enter the global market, they remain wary of antagonizing Moscow and its friends in Beijing.
And that divergence has set the stage for a potentially contentious preparatory meeting ahead of November’s G20 summit amid questions about whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend.
The US has made clear it does not think Putin should attend, but has urged Indonesia to invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky if the Russian leader attends.
Meanwhile, the US and China are separately at odds over a host of issues ranging from trade and human rights to Taiwan and disputes in the South China Sea.
Blinken’s meeting with Wang was announced after China’s trade representative in Washington raised concerns about US tariffs on Chinese imports in a conversation with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Neither side gave any indication that progress had been made on the issue, and US officials downplayed the chances of a breakthrough in the near term.
In his meeting with Wang, U.S. officials said Blinken would instead insist on keeping the lines of communication open and creating “railings” to guide the world’s two largest economies as they deal with increasingly complex and potentially explosive issues. .
“It is absolutely critical that we have open lines of communication with our Chinese counterparts, especially at the senior level … to make sure we prevent any miscalculations that could inadvertently lead to conflict and confrontation,” said Daniel Krittenbrink, top US diplomat for Asia.
From Bali, Blinken will travel to Bangkok, Thailand to make up for a trip to the Thai capital that he was forced to cancel late last year due to COVID-19. In addition to Thai officials, Blinken will meet with refugees who have fled ongoing political violence and repression in Myanmar since a coup toppled a civilian government in February 2021.
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The G20 meeting could lead to greater divisions over the war in Ukraine
Source link The G20 meeting could lead to greater divisions over the war in Ukraine