China, Russia refuse to support G20 joint declaration

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov holds a press conference during the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023. Picture: Russian Foreign Ministry / AFP
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New Delhi – China joined Russia on Thursday in refusing to support a demand for Moscow to cease hostilities in Ukraine, a statement from the Group of 20 (G20) foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi showed.

Both countries were the only G20 members not to agree to the statement demanding Russia’s “complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine”.

Lavrov told the assembled foreign ministers that Western representatives had derailed the meeting in an effort to scapegoat Russia for their own failings, disrespecting efforts by the Indian hosts to reach agreement on other issues.

“I want to apologise to the Indian presidency and to our colleagues from countries of the global South for the obscene behaviour of some Western delegations, which have turned the G20’s agenda into a farce,” Lavrov said, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Russia and China criticised the West for employing “blackmail and threats” against other countries, Moscow said following a meeting of the two countries’ foreign ministers.

“A unanimous rejection was expressed of attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, to impose unilateral approaches through blackmail and threats, and to oppose the democratisation of international relations,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

Moscow released the statement after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

The two ministers also discussed Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Moscow said, including Beijing’s proposal for ending the conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, meets with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023. Picture: Russian Foreign Ministry / AFP

Lavrov said that G20 would not issue a joint declaration with host India, but would instead release a summary.

“The declaration was blocked and the outcome of the discussion will be described in the summary that the Indian presidency would speak about,” Lavrov told reporters through an interpreter after the talks.

The US and Russia also met briefly to air their differences in their highest one-to-one contact since the invasion of Ukraine last year on the sidelines of a G20 meeting dominated by divisions over the conflict.

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US Secretary of State and Antony Blinken met with Lavrov to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to protecting Ukraine after growing support from European allies for peace initiatives.

Blinken wanted to “disabuse the Russians of any notion that our support might be wavering” on Ukraine, a US official said on condition of anonymity.

The last time Blinken and Lavrov were in the same room, at a G20 meeting in Bali last July, the latter stormed out according to Western officials.

Thursday’s G20 meeting looked set to draw to a close without a joint statement – the second such meeting of the bloc to fail to reach an accord in as many weeks after delegates failed to reach a consensus position on Ukraine.

“On the issue, which very frankly concerned the Ukraine conflict, there were divergences, there were differences, which we couldn’t reconcile,” Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar told reporters.

Discussions over the joint statement faltered on several issues including Russia’s insistence on an investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline last year, Lavrov told reporters through an interpreter.

Western countries and Russia have traded accusations of responsibility for the explosions in September.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023. Picture: Indian Press Information Bureau / AFP

Russia’s war with Ukraine has crowded out other agenda items at the G20, frustrating India, which said it wanted to use its year as host to focus on issues such as alleviating poverty and climate finance.

“The experience of the last few years – financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism and wars – clearly shows that global governance has failed,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in recorded remarks opening the meeting.

“We all have our positions and our perspectives on how these tensions (can) be resolved. However, as the leading economies of the world, we also have a responsibility for those who are not in this room,” he added.

While India has not condemned the Ukraine invasion, Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin last year this was “not a time for war”.