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G20 summit backs Ukraine but avoids condemning Russia for war

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G20 leaders at a summit on Saturday (9 September) adopted a consensus declaration that called for respect of ‘territorial integrity and sovereignty’ in the Ukraine war but avoided condemning Russia for waging it.

The final joint communiqu? for the G20 summit in Delhi, India stated that all countries should “uphold the principles of international law” and “refrain from action against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state.”

“We (…) welcome all relevant and constructive initiatives that support a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine,” the declaration said.

“The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible,” it added.

The language endorsed by G20 leaders weakened a previous position, adopted in a G20 statement in Bali last November, that directly blamed Russia for the war in Ukraine.

The consensus on the first day of the two-day summit came as a surprise as the G20 is deeply divided over the war in Ukraine, with Western countries earlier pushing for strong condemnation of Russia in the joint communiqu?, while more hesitant members demanded a focus on broader economic issues.

Some G20 officials said such a tone-down in wording had been the only way to get buy-in from some of the more Moscow-friendly members and Russia itself.

According to diplomats, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had been deeply involved in the weeks of negotiations leading up to the final version of the declaration.

There was no immediate reaction from Russia, though Lavrov had said ahead of the meeting he would block the final declaration unless it reflected Moscow’s position on Ukraine and other crises.

India’s sherpa, the country representative to the G20, said the host nation worked “very closely” with Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia to reach a consensus on the language on the war in Ukraine in the summit document.

“It is a fact that this is today a very polarizing issue and there are multiple views on this,” Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Saturday, referring to Ukraine.

“Bali was a year ago, the situation was different – many things have happened since then,” he added, defending the weaker language.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry, however, said the declaration was “nothing to be proud of”, adding that a Ukrainian presence would have given participants a better understanding of the situation.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko posted a screenshot of the relevant section of the joint declaration, with several pieces of the text crossed out in red and corrected with wording which reflects Ukraine’s position that it is a victim of unprovoked Russian aggression.

G20 adopted a final declaration. We are grateful to the partners who tried to include strong wording in the text. However, in terms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, G20 has nothing to be proud of. This is how the main elements of the text could look to be closer to reality pic.twitter.com/qZqYluVKKS

— Oleg Nikolenko (@OlegNikolenko_) September 9, 2023

“It is clear that the participation of the Ukrainian side (in the G20 meeting) would have allowed the participants to better understand the situation,” he wrote on Facebook.

Despite his disappointment with the overall G20 text, Nikolenko thanked Ukraine’s allies for doing their part to advance Ukraine’s position in the declaration.

“Ukraine is grateful to the partners who tried to include strong formulations in the text.”

The declaration also called for the implementation of the Black Sea initiative for the safe flow of grain, food and fertiliser from Ukraine and Russia.
Moscow pulled out of the agreement in July over what it called a failure to meet its demands to implement a parallel agreement easing rules for its own food and fertiliser exports.

The declaration also said the group agreed to address debt vulnerabilities in low and middle-income countries “in an effective, comprehensive and systematic manner”, but did not make any fresh action plan.

It said countries pledged to strengthen and reform multilateral development banks, while it accepted the proposal for tighter regulation of cryptocurrencies.

It also agreed that the world needs a total of $4 trillion of low-cost financing annually for the energy transition, with a high share of renewables in the primary energy mix.

The statement called for accelerating efforts towards a “phasedown of unabated coal power”, but said this had to be done “in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards just transitions”.

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