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Russia's war in Ukraine dominates G20 summit, with leaders agreeing to differ

Thursday, November 17, 2022
Russia's war in Ukraine dominates G20 summit, with leaders agreeing to differ © Reuters. Delegates attend the first session of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, November 15, 2022. Ryan Carter/UAE Presidential Court/Handout via REUTERS

By Ananda Teresia and Stanley Widianto

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - The Group of 20 nations unanimously adopted a declaration on Wednesday saying most members condemned the war in Ukraine, but the document concluding their summit acknowledged some countries saw the conflict differently.

The leaders of the world's biggest economies also agreed to pace interest rate rises carefully to avoid spillovers and warned of "increased volatility" in currency moves.

But it was the Ukraine conflict, which started with a Russian invasion in February, that dominated the two-day summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

As a G20 member, Russia was among the attendees, although President Vladimir Putin did not go himself.

"Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine," the leaders said in their declaration.

The declaration recognised that "there were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions", signalling Russia's rejection of a unanimous condemnation.

The G20 leaders also said in the declaration that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was "inadmissible", alluding to what Western officials have called irresponsible Russian threats of a possible nuclear option since the Ukraine war began. Russia has in turn accused the West of "provocative" nuclear rhetoric.

"It is essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability," the declaration added.

The president of host Indonesia, Joko Widodo, said the Ukraine war had been the most contentious issue.

"The discussion on this was very, very tough and by the end the G20 leaders agreed on the content of the declaration, which was the condemnation of the war in Ukraine because it has violated country borders and integrity," he said.

Russia, whose forces pounded cities and energy facilities across Ukraine on Tuesday as the G20 convened, had said earlier that "politicisation" of the summit was unfair.

The declaration - which the Kremlin posted on its website with a link to the English version - also said it recognised that the G20 was not the forum to resolve security issues.

French President Emmanuel Macron said G20 leaders also agreed to push Russia towards de-escalation in Ukraine and expressed hope China could play a bigger mediation role in the coming months.

EMERGENCY MEETING

Earlier, the day's schedule at the summit was disrupted by an emergency meeting to discuss reports on Tuesday of a missile landing in Polish territory near Ukraine and killing two people.

U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States and its NATO allies were investigating the blast but early information suggested it might not have been caused by a missile fired from Russia.

NATO and Poland said the missile was most likely a stray from a Ukrainian air defence system activated to shoot down Russian missiles.

Taking a break from the negotiations, the G20 leaders dressed in white shirts, some with baseball caps with the G20 logo, and engaged in a ceremony to plant mangrove saplings to signal the battle against climate change.

They agreed to pursue efforts to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C, including speeding up efforts to phase down unabated use of coal.

Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in talks on the eve of the summit on Monday, agreed to resume cooperation on climate change.

On the sidelines of the summit, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met Chinese central bank Governor Yi Gang, her first in-person talks with a senior Chinese economic official.

She had said before the meeting she hoped to get new insight into China's policy plans and work towards more economic engagement between the world's two largest economies.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters that several major economies faced a real risk of sliding into recession as the war in Ukraine, rising food and fuel costs, and soaring inflation cloud the global outlook.

'CALIBRATE TIGHTENING'

But it was the Western-led push to condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine that took centre stage in the talks.

Many participants said Putin's invasion of Ukraine had pummelled the global economy and revived Cold War-era geopolitical divisions just as the world was emerging from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday repeated Putin's line that NATO's expansion had threatened Russia. "Yes, there is a war going on in Ukraine, a hybrid war that the West has unleashed and been preparing for years," he said. Lavrov was representing Putin at the summit but left on Tuesday evening. Russia was later represented by Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.

Russia spoke in favour of extending the Black Sea grain deal at the summit as long as more grain was sent to countries in the greatest need, Siluanov told Russia's state-run RT news channel.

The 19 countries in the G20 together with the European Union account for more than 80% of the world's gross domestic product, 75% of international trade and 60% of its population.

In their declaration, the leaders said the world economy was facing "unparalleled multidimensional crises" ranging from the Ukraine war to a surge in inflation, forcing many central banks to tighten monetary policy.

As well as agreeing to calibrate tightening, the G20 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to avoid excessive exchange-rate volatility while recognising that "many currencies have moved significantly" this year.

On debt, they voiced concern about the "deteriorating" situation of some middle-income countries and stressed the importance of all creditors sharing a fair burden.

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