14 Nov , 2022 By : Kaushiki Mehta
Group of 20 diplomats agreed on a proposed communique to put to their leaders when they meet Tuesday in Bali, Indonesia, after a tense day of negotiations to overcome differences on how hard to criticize Russia for its war in Ukraine, according to officials familiar with the matter.
If leaders sign off it will avoid this becoming the first G-20 summit to end without a joint statement at all. To get there, negotiators had to devise language that walked the line between acknowledging Russia’s concerns and extracting concessions from it.
One diplomat cautioned that things were not completely ironed on with the full draft still not circulating even as a verbal understanding was reached, and with leaders yet to approve the language. It comes as Russian military hawks have been pressing President Vladimir Putin to take an even harder line on Ukraine with his forces struggling on the ground, having recently withdrawn from the southern city of Kherson.
The planned draft declaration will point to an earlier United Nations resolution, which deplored Russia’s aggression while demanding it withdraw from Ukraine, the people said.
At the same time, the proposed G-20 statement will note differences between some nations by recalling their previously-stated positions on the conflict, the people said. One added the plan for now was to refer to the “war in Ukraine” as opposed to “Russia’s war in Ukraine.” Moscow insists on calling its invasion a “special military operation” and has made it a criminal offense at home to describe it as a war.
Some officials had talked earlier Monday of the prospect of a communique involving different language in some parts where the war would be described. Three diplomats said this had indeed provided a way through for the Indonesian hosts.
There was also agreement on language condemning any threats to use nuclear weapons, the two diplomats said, in a reference to Moscow’s vow to use any and all means at its disposal to defend territory it has illegally annexed in Ukraine.
A deal on a text to present to leaders is a relief for the hosts and supporter nations headed into the formal start of the summit on Tuesday. The divisions in the lead up to the meeting have highlighted the fractures between wealthier members and those who have borne the brunt of economic disruption first from the pandemic, and now food and energy insecurity exacerbated by Russia’s war.
Some member states had expressed reservations about language they regarded as too aggressive on Russia. One official had cited concern by China that allowing condemnation of Moscow could open the door to stronger statements in the future on Beijing’s own behavior toward Taiwan, a democratically-governed island.
While Putin may not be attending the summit in person, the event logistics are also proving tricky. Some officials said it is still unclear whether Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who Putin sent in his stead, will take part in social events such as the traditional “family photo” of leaders.
Even the hosts don’t know what events Lavrov may pop up at, one of the people said. In the run up to the summit, Russian diplomats doing preparation work have largely stayed apart from their counterparts from other countries, adding to perceptions of Moscow’s isolation.
The Russian president is also expected to skip a virtual appearance at a session on food and energy security, with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy possibly dialing in. Lavrov, meanwhile, is set to leave the summit early and has only a handful of bilateral meetings scheduled, another G-20 official said.
And in a sign of just how much Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has overshadowed the summit, the aspirations for other topics on the agenda, including health and climate change, have been modest: to reaffirm what the group agreed to in Rome during last year’s summit. That’s where most of the technical discussion around the communique took place, officials have said.