No G20 joint statement after China objections on Ukraine war

Published February 25, 2023
Vice Finance Minister of China, Dongwei Wang (L) and members of his delegation come out of the G20 Finance meeting held under India’s G20 Presidency in Bengaluru on February 25. — AFP
Vice Finance Minister of China, Dongwei Wang (L) and members of his delegation come out of the G20 Finance meeting held under India’s G20 Presidency in Bengaluru on February 25. — AFP

G20 finance ministers again failed on Saturday to agree on a joint statement on the global economy at talks in India, after China sought to water down references to the Ukraine war.

Instead, the current G20 president of India issued a “chair’s summary” which said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine” and that there were “different assessments of the situation and sanctions” at the two-day meeting in Bengaluru.

A footnote said two paragraphs in the summary about the war, which it said were adapted from the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration in November, “were agreed to by all member countries except Russia and China”.

Spain’s representative Nadia Calvino had said earlier that because of “less constructive” approaches by some unspecified countries at the talks among the world’s top 20 economies, agreeing on a statement was “difficult”.

China wanted to change the language of the statement from November, officials told AFP, with one saying on condition of anonymity that Beijing wanted to remove the word “war”.

Previous meetings of G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs have also failed to produce a common communique since Russia, a member of the grouping, invaded its neighbour last February.

China has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the conflict while maintaining close ties with strategic ally Russia.

Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi was in Moscow on Wednesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is due at a G20 foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi next week.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua quoted Wang as saying China was willing to “deepen political trust” and “strengthen strategic coordination” with Russia.

On Friday, the first anniversary of the invasion, China published a 12-point paper calling for a “political settlement” to the crisis that was met with scepticism from Ukraine’s allies.

G20 host, India has also refused to condemn Russia, which is New Delhi’s biggest arms supplier and has become a major source of oil for India since the invasion.

Western countries, including the United States, Germany, and France, had insisted the language in any joint statement could not be weaker than the communique issued by G20 leaders in Indonesia in November.

“This is a war. And this war has a cause, has one cause, and that is Russia and Vladimir Putin. That must be expressed clearly at this G20 finance meeting,” German Finance Minister Christian Lindner told a news conference on Friday.

Debt relief

The gathering also focused on debt relief for poorer countries hit by rocketing inflation because of the war.

The International Monetary Fund said ahead of the meeting that around 15 per cent of low-income countries were in debt distress and an additional 4pc were at high risk.

Western officials, including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, called on China to take “haircuts” on its loans to debt-stricken nations such as Zambia and Sri Lanka.

China wants multilateral lenders including the World Bank — which Beijing sees as Western-controlled — also to restructure their loans, but the United States and others oppose this.

Other topics in Bengaluru included efforts towards a global tax on tech giants and widening the remit of multilateral development banks such as the World Bank to help nations hit by climate change.

121 hit in new EU sanctions over Russia’s war

Meanwhile, officials said that new European Union (EU) sanctions over Russia’s war adopted on Saturday target 121 individuals and entities, including Iranian drone manufacturers.

The measures, agreed late on Friday ahead of Saturday’s formal adoption, are the 10th round of EU sanctions aimed at undercutting Russia’s finances and military supplies used in its invasion that started a year ago.

They echo sanctions announced on Friday by the United States and Britain and follow up on a G7 statement that warned of penalties for any country abetting Russia in its war.

The successive round of EU measures is “the most far-reaching sanctions ever depleting Russia’s war arsenal and biting deep into its economy”, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said.

“We are also turning up the pressure on those trying to circumvent our sanctions.”

The latest EU sanctions target an additional 96 Russian entities, meaning businesses or state agencies, including another three Russian banks, according to an EU statement.

Seven Iranian entities are included in this round, all manufacturers of self-exploding drones Russia has been using to strike Ukrainian targets, including infrastructure and residential buildings.

An export ban on industrial goods to Russia is expanded to include dual-use items like electronics, specialised vehicles, machine parts, spare parts for trucks and jet engines, antennae, cranes, drones, rare earth materials, electronic circuits, and thermal cameras.

Trade in those goods, which battlefield evidence suggests Moscow is using for its war, amounts to more than $12 billion, according to EU officials.

Sanctions on Russia’s propaganda outlets were stepped up, with moves to suspend the broadcasting licenses of the Arabic outlets of state-controlled media groups RT and Sputnik, which are already banned in Europe.

And the measures required EU member states to make more detailed reporting on assets seized from sanctioned wealthy Russians supporting the Kremlin, and frozen Russian Central Bank funds.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said a total of 121 entities and individuals were on the latest sanctions list, details of which were expected later on Saturday when they were to be published in the European Union’s official gazette.

Being on the list means an asset freeze in the EU and a visa ban.

Borrell said the latest round also targets “those responsible for the deportation and forced adoption of at least 6,000 Ukrainian children” in violation of international law.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Russia — and we will do it for as long as needed until Ukraine is liberated from the brutal Russian aggression,” he said.

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