G20 Diplomats Find No Common Ground As Western Countries Press Russia Over War In Ukraine

Diplomats from the world’s major industrialized nations failed on July 8 to find common ground over Russia’s war in Ukraine and how to deal with its impact on grain shipments and energy markets.

Russia’s foreign minister walked out of two sessions held by diplomats from the Group of 20 (G20) amid criticism of the war on Ukraine and amid calls for Russia to allow Kyiv to ship grain out to the world.

The July 8 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, was intended to lay the groundwork for summit of G20 leaders later this year. The war and soaring global food and energy prices that have resulted from it topped the agenda.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov walked out of the morning meeting after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock criticized Moscow for the war.

The vast majority of representatives at the meeting had condemned “Russia’s brutal war of aggression,” Baerbock said. “The appeal of all 19 states was very clear to Russia: this war must end,” she said.

Lavrov left the afternoon session before Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba’s scheduled virtual speech. Kuleba told ministers to “remember about 344 families who have lost their children when listening to Russian lies.”

Lavrov told reporters the discussions “strayed almost immediately, as soon as they took the floor, to the frenzied criticism of the Russian Federation in connection with the situation in Ukraine.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Lavrov was in the room when the meeting began and “about two hours later he began to hold bilateral talks with colleagues in the same forum in the next room.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the Russian invasion.

“What we’ve heard today already is a strong chorus from around the world…about the need for the aggression to end,” Blinken said.

During a closed-door session of officials, Blinken, who refused to hold one-on-one meetings with Lavrov, demanded Moscow allow grain shipments out of Ukraine.

“To our Russian colleagues: Ukraine is not your country. Its grain is not your grain. Why are you blocking the ports? You should let the grain out,” Blinken said, according to a Western official present.

Zakharova said Lavrov was not present to hear Blinken’s comments.

Members of the G20, whose countries account for about 80 percent of the world’s economic output and about two-thirds of the world’s population, had much to address as prices for meat, cereals, vegetable oils, dairy products, and sugar have soared in recent months, due largely to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine is not a member of the G20 but is one of the world’s largest exporters of corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion halted most of that flow. Millions of tons of Ukrainian grain are stuck in silos, unable to be exported due to Russia’s naval presence in the Black Sea.

Those disruptions threaten food supplies for many developing countries, especially in Africa.

But the meeting ended with no group photo taken nor a final communique issued as has been done in previous years. It also exposed further evidence of an East-West split driven by China and Russia on one side and the United States and Europe on the other.

In closing remarks, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said “participants expressed deep concern about the humanitarian impacts of the war” in Ukraine, and “some members expressed condemnation” of the invasion.

The meeting’s agenda was also rocked by the resignation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which prompted his foreign secretary, Liz Truss, to depart Bali, and the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

While in Bali, Blinken will also seek to reopen dialogue with Beijing in talks on July 9 with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Lavrov met Wang on July 7 to discuss Russia’s invasion. The United States has condemned Beijing’s support for Russia, and Blinken is expected to reiterate those warnings in talks with Wang.

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