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War looms large over G20 event as Russia meets rivals in Bali

Shouts of "When will you stop the war" and "Why don't you stop the war" were heard as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shook hands with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi at the start of the meeting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives at the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. (Reuters)

G20 foreign ministers attended a joint summit on Friday that has put some of the staunchest critics of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the same room as Moscow’s top diplomat, the first such meeting since the war started in February.

The buildup to the gathering on the Indonesian island of Bali has been dominated by the war and its impact on the global economy, with top officials from Western countries and Japan stressing it would not be “business as usual” at the forum.

Shouts of “When will you stop the war” and “Why don’t you stop the war” were heard as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shook hands with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi at the start of the meeting.

Underlining tensions in the buildup, Retno said earlier G7 counterparts had informed her they could not join Thursday’s welcome dinner where Lavrov was present, decisions that the host nation understood and respected.

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“It is our responsibility to end the war sooner than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not at the battlefield,” Retno said on Friday at the opening of talks.

A senior official for the Indonesian foreign ministry told Reuters no communique was expected from Friday’s meeting.

Russia’s invasion has cast a cloud over Indonesia’s presidency of the Group of 20 largest economies this year, with speculation of boycotts from some members and a walkout in April at a finance ministers’ meeting in Washington.

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Retno said late on Thursday it was important for the host to “create an atmosphere that’s comfortable for everybody” and the G20 was an opportunity for progress.

“This is the first time, since February 24, all major players are sitting in the same room,” she said, referring to the start of the Russian invasion.

A senior US State Department official said on Thursday it was important to prevent “disruptions or interruptions” to the G20 agenda, while ensuring nothing took place that could legitimise Russia’s “brutalising” of Ukraine.

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After discussions on the issue of Ukraine with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing opposed any act of hyping up bloc confrontation, and creating a “new Cold War”.

Russia’s invasion, which it calls a “special military operation”, has caused major disruption to the global economy, with a blockade on Ukrainian grain and sanctions on Russian oil and gas driving a food crisis and global spike in inflation.

Friday’s agenda includes a closed meeting with top diplomats of G20 countries including China, India, the United States, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Japan, South Africa, as well as bilateral talks on the sidelines. Ukraine’s foreign minister is expected to address the meeting virtually.

Lavrov met Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali on Thursday, during which he praised Beijing but lashed out at an “openly aggressive” West.

For the first time in three years, the Chinese and Australian foreign ministers will hold talks on the sidelines of the meeting on Friday, signalling a thaw in relations that has soured over claims of foreign interference and retaliatory trade sanctions.

First published on: 08-07-2022 at 09:03:12 am
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