G20 Summit: Disagreements on text related to Ukraine war hold up consensus outcome

New Delhi: From freezing discussions on the Ukraine crisis to proposals for including references to the supply of arms by Nato states to Kyiv, countries such as Brazil and Russia have mooted various formulas for referring to the conflict in the leaders’ declaration to be adopted at the G20 Summit.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a howitzer towards Russian troops at a position near the frontline town of Bakhmut, amid Russia’s attack, in Donetsk region, Ukraine. (REUTERS)

Disagreements on text to refer to the Ukraine war have held up consensus outcome documents at all G20 ministerial meetings hosted so far by India, and negotiators are hard at work trying to come up with a compromise formulation that will be acceptable to all member states in time for the summit to be held in New Delhi on September 9-10, people familiar with the matter said.

Brazil, which will host the G20 Summit in 2024, proposed a formula whereby the reference to Ukraine would be frozen in the context of the leaders’ declaration adopted at the 2022 summit in Indonesia — that the matter was discussed but there were disagreements among members — so that the grouping could move on, the people said, declining to be named. This formulation didn’t get much traction, they added.

While Russia has dissociated itself from all references to Ukraine in documents issued after G20 ministerial meetings, a member of the Russian negotiating team, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Moscow will be open to the inclusion of the issue in the draft leaders’ declaration, provided references are made to issues such as the supply of weapons by Nato states to Ukraine and previous wars fought by the US and its partners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another Russian official, who too spoke on condition that he wouldn’t be named, described the reference to Ukraine in the G20 leaders’ declaration in Bali as a “one off”. “This was a compromise and the situation on the ground has changed,” the official added.

China has stuck to the position that the G20 is not the right forum to address security issues while opposing the inclusion of any “geopolitical content” in outcome documents, the people said. This, however, is the exact opposite of the stand taken by the G7, which insists the Ukraine crisis and its impact on the global economy, especially food and energy security, must be reflected in the G20 declaration.

“The war in Ukraine is certainly a major issue that’s affecting the global economy,” said Christina Segal-Knowles, the US sous sherpa or deputy head of the delegation that participated in the third G20 sherpas meeting in Hampi, Karnataka. ”We need to be able to talk about that for the G20 to remain a credible institution.”

The US is “not wedded to” the language in the Bali leaders’ declaration and is open to flexibility on this issue, Segal-Knowles said. “I think for us the Bali language is the place where we left off, where we knew we had a compromise. It was very carefully constructed and it reflected everyone’s national positions. Our position is, let’s look at where we knew we were able to compromise and learn from it, rather than reinventing the wheel,” she said in an interview.

There are now at least five formulas mooted by G20 states for referring to the Ukraine crisis and the Indian side’s intention is to come up with an “inclusive paragraph” that records the diversity of views, one of the people cited above said. “The Russian side would like its views to be more widely reflected. The trick is to find language everyone can live with,” the person said.

The Ukraine issue was put on the back burner at the sherpas’ meeting in Hampi on July 13-15 so that G20 members could take forward discussions on deliverables in other areas, India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said.

The Ukraine crisis is now expected to figure prominently in several virtual meetings of sherpas, or senior officials acting on behalf of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, to be held in early August and the fourth in-person sherpas’ meeting to be held in Manesar, Haryana on September 3-6.

If the G20 Summit is unable to issue a joint communique, it will be the first time since the meeting of leaders began in November 2008.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR G20 Summit: Disagreements on text related to Ukraine war hold up consensus outcome

Rezaul H Laskar is the Foreign Affairs Editor at Hindustan Times. His interests include movies and music. …view detail

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