G20 statement in doubt as US, Russia fail to agree at East Asian Summit

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Russia and the US failed to agree on the language for a joint statement following a multilateral summit in Cambodia, making it unlikely the Group of 20 (G20) nations will reach a consensus in Indonesia either this week.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put the blame on the US and its allies for the lack of a communique at the 18-nation East Asian Summit, saying on Sunday that they “insisted on absolutely unacceptable language regarding the situation in Ukraine”.

Russia refuses to describe its invasion of Ukraine as a war, instead calling it a “special military operation”.

Lavrov also accused the United States of dividing the 10-member ASEAN and criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for stepping up activity in the region.

His comments on NATO echo a growing concern of China, even though the US alliance system in Asia does not include NATO’s collective defense agreements.

“NATO is no longer saying that this is a purely defensive alliance,” said Lavrov, speaking in Cambodia before heading to Bali, Indonesia.

“There is a clear trend on militarization of the region through coordination of efforts of local US allies such Australia, New Zealand and Japan with NATO enlargement.”

Speaking on Air Force One late on Sunday after the ASEAN-led summits, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the US believes the number of countries prepared to call Russia out on the issue is rising.

He also disputed Lavrov’s characterization of the summit and said it remained possible the G-20 nations would find common ground.

“When we look at the G20 context, I think you will see intensive work over the next 24 to 48 hours, with good faith on the part of the United States and our G7 (Group of Seven) partners, to produce a joint statement or a communique,” he said.

US President Joe Biden on Monday will hold his first in-person meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who has been Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s most important diplomatic partner.

Still, earlier this month, Xi told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that he opposed the use of nuclear force in Europe, in the Chinese leader’s most direct remarks yet on the need to keep Russia’s war in Ukraine from escalating.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has split the international community, with the US and its allies putting sanctions on Moscow and providing its neighbor with military aid and economic assistance.

Other countries have baulked at doing so or failed to condemn Moscow for its actions. The conflict has thwarted broader international cooperation, prompting several multilateral meetings this year to end in discord.

Indonesia, which holds the rotating G20 presidency, has sought to bridge the gap between G-7 countries and Russia. But in the final days before the summit, hope was dwindling that the two sides could find a compromise for a joint communique, making it likely that Indonesia will need to issue a chair’s statement instead.

“On this particular paragraph related to war, maybe there will be no agreement, but we are still trying,” Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Sunday.

She emphasized the importance of the G20 delivering “very tangible and concrete deliverables” in areas like climate change and the pandemic, even if there is no joint communique.




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