• Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Diplomacy

With both US, Russia foreign ministers in New Delhi, will Ukraine overshadow G20 meeting in India?

(L-R) US secretary of state Antony Blinken (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images) and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (Photo by BADRU KATUMBA/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken was due in New Delhi on Wednesday (1) alongside Russia’s Sergei Lavrov for a G20 meeting, with Ukraine and tensions with China set to overshadow attempts by host India to forge unity among the world’s top economies.

Blinken said he had no plans to meet the Russian foreign minister face-to-face at the summit, but Thursday (2) will be the first time the two men have been in the same room since a G20 meeting in Bali last July.

“If Russia… were genuinely prepared to engage in meaningful diplomacy necessary to end the aggression, of course we’d be the first to work to engage, but there’s zero evidence of that,” Blinken told reporters in Tashkent while en route to the summit.

Lavrov arrived late Tuesday (28) in India — which has not condemned the war — and will use his G20 attendance to lay into the West, according to the Russian foreign ministry.

Western countries want to “take revenge for the inevitable disappearance of the levers of dominance from its hands”, the ministry’s English-language statement said.

“The destructive policy of the US and its allies has already put the world on the brink of a disaster,” it added.

– ‘Spy balloon’ –

The US Secretary of State also said he had no plans to meet Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the of the two-day G20 gathering in New Delhi.

Blinken had a fiery encounter with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi last month in Germany after the United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over its east coast on February 4.

The incident led Blinken to nix a rare trip to China, slamming the “unacceptable violation of US sovereignty and international law” which “must never again occur”, the State Department said.

Beijing, which has also been angered by Washington’s stance on Taiwan, denies it uses spy balloons and says the craft was for weather research.

Wang “urged the US side to change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations,” state news agency Xinhua reported.

– ‘Material support’ –

Blinken also warned Wang against providing “material support” to Russia’s faltering war effort, as is speculated in Washington. Beijing denies any such intention.

Xinhua quoted Wang last week as saying China was willing to “strengthen strategic coordination” with Russia after meeting Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Blinken was also expected on Friday to meet his counterparts from the Quad group, which includes the United States, Japan, Australia and India, and is seen as a bulwark against China in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan’s foreign ministry said the meeting would affirm the bloc’s “commitment to strengthening a free and open international order based on the rule of law”.

– Awkward hosts –

The Group of Twenty comprises 19 countries and the European Union, representing around 85 percent of the world’s economy and two-thirds of its population.

India wants to use its G20 presidency this year to focus on issues such as alleviating poverty and climate finance, but the Ukraine war and its effects are set to dominate the agenda.

Last week, a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Bengaluru failed to agree on a common statement after Russia and China sought to water down language on the Ukraine war.

Hosting the G20 puts India in a tricky position, because while it shares Western concerns about China, it is also a major buyer of Russian arms and has ramped up Russian oil imports.

India has not condemned the Ukraine invasion, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Putin last year that this was “not a time for war” in comments seen as a rebuke of Moscow.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was confident India would use the meeting to “make Russia understand that this war has to finish”.

“Certainly the success of the meeting today will be measured in respect to what we will be able to do on that,” he told reporters in New Delhi.

(AFP)

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