G-20 members make strong call for 'immediate' end to Ukraine war

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi delivers a statement after the closing of the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bali, on July 8, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - The war in Ukraine and its repercussions on the global economy hung heavy over the Group of 20 (G-20) meeting of foreign ministers in Bali, which wrapped on Friday (July 8) with most members making a strong call for the war to end.

Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who hosted the two-day meeting, said recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of the war posed "great challenges" for the world.

"There is a strong push from many participants for an immediate end to the war and peaceful resolution of conflict through diplomacy and negotiation," she said in her concluding remarks.

This resonated with her call at the opening of the meeting: "It is our responsibility to end the war sooner than later, and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not at the battlefield."

As host, Indonesia "exerted maximum efforts to create a comfortable atmosphere for every participant", she said.

"I hope participants could use the meeting to build bridges, not walls, strengthen trust rather than distrust, and commit to collaborate and be part of the solution."

Describing Friday's talks as "frank and constructive discussions", Ms Retno noted that all participants were concerned about soaring food and energy prices, with developing economies becoming the most affected by the situation.

"There is an urgent need to address global food supply chain disruption. Reintegrating food and fertiliser from Ukraine and Russia into the global market is critical," she added.

The two-day event in Bali was the first in-person meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and some of Russia's staunchest critics since the war in Ukraine began. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24 in what Moscow calls a "special military operation".

Tensions had built up ahead of Friday's meeting when Group of Seven (G-7) ministers skipped Thursday's welcome dinner attended by Mr Lavrov. The G-7 grouping comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Ms Retno said they had informed her about this earlier and she could understand her counterparts' stance.

Shouts of "When will you stop the war" and "Why don't you stop the war" came from among the group of reporters present as Mr Lavrov and Ms Retno shook hands before the meeting began on Friday morning.

Mr Lavrov reportedly walked out during Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba's virtual address, as he did when his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock criticised Moscow over the Ukraine war.

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Indonesia, as the current president of the G-20, had invited Ukraine among a few non-member countries including Singapore, to attend the meeting.

Mr Lavrov told journalists on Friday that the West's discussion "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".

"'Aggressors', 'invaders', 'occupiers' - we heard a lot of things today," he said, calling the interaction "expectedly unproductive".

He said Russia was ready to negotiate with Turkey and Ukraine on the grain blocked at Ukrainian ports. This comes after Turkey and the United Nations have engaged Russia in talks about a grain export corridor from Ukraine for weeks, with no breakthrough.

Mr Lavrov had talks with Ms Retno, as well as his counterparts from Argentina, Brazil and India on Friday. He met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday.

Russian state news agency Tass reported that Mr Lavrov blamed the global food and energy crises on the West's policies, which he said were "adventurist, ill-considered and mistaken". Among these were the so-called green transformation and the West's interference in market forces, he said.

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