Xi and Putin to attend G-20 summit in Indonesia, Jokowi says

Indonesian President Joko Widodo confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Russian leader Vladimir Putin were planning to attend the November summit. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP

JAKARTA - Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping are planning to attend the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Bali in mid-November, as Indonesia hopes to encourage discussions conducive to resolving global supply chain problems.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo revealed the planned trip of the two leaders in an interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday (Aug 19). 

It was the first time that Indonesia, the chairman of the grouping this year, has confirmed that both leaders intend to attend the summit in person, as it was previously speculated that they would attend only virtually.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said he could not comment on the President’s remarks, but quickly stressed: “Indonesia is making preparations for the physical attendance of all G-20 leaders.”

Indonesia has been under pressure by the United States and its Western allies to bar Russia from the G-20 summit over Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

Mr Widodo’s priority, however, has been to ensure the success of the summit, by getting world leaders to turn up.

He has extended an invitation to Mr Putin, Mr Xi, as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to attend the summit. Russia and China are members of the G-20, but Ukraine is not. 

The Chinese President has not been overseas since the onset of the pandemic. 

Tensions between the US and China are at an all-time high, and Mr Xi’s attendance at the Bali summit would facilitate his first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden. 

A spokesman for the White House National Security Council said on Friday: “I don’t have President Biden's travel to announce at this time. As you have seen, we have been participating in the G-20 this year.” 

The spokesman added that if Mr Putin “does attend the G-20, then (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky should participate”.

Like many other countries, Indonesia is facing mounting pressures due to surging energy and food prices as a result of the war in Ukraine, and the G-20 meeting could be an avenue to resolve this problem, Mr Bhima Yudhistira, director at the Centre of Economic and Law Studies in Jakarta, told ST.

“If Putin really comes down here and takes time to meet the Western counterparts, it will bring about very positive impacts on the global economy. Everyone will benefit,” said Mr Bhima.

The Kremlin on Thursday said in a statement that Mr Putin had congratulated Mr Widodo over the phone on the 77th commemoration of Indonesia’s Independence Day on Aug 17. 

The leaders also discussed plans to implement agreements on bilateral trade and economic projects reached during Mr Widodo’s visit to Russia in late June, as well as preparation for the G-20 summit. 

The Kremlin did not say whether Mr Putin would attend the summit in person.

Meanwhile, at a media briefing on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin declined to disclose Mr Xi’s travel plans, saying: “We are ready to step up coordination and cooperation with Indonesia to ensure the full success of the summit.” 

Mr Biden and Mr Xi have left open the possibility of meeting on the sidelines of the Bali summit, Bloomberg reported. 

China cut off talks with the US on defence and a range of other areas after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in early August, while the White House has criticised Beijing’s subsequent military drills around the island.

“The rivalry of the big countries is indeed worrying,” Mr Widodo said in his interview with Bloomberg. “What we want is for this region to be stable, peaceful, so that we can build economic growth. And I think not only Indonesia, but Asian countries also want the same thing.”

Mr Reza Widyarsa, an international relations lecturer at Maritim Raja Ali Haji University in Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands province, said Mr Widodo must ensure discussions during the summit remain on economic issues and tackling the global supply chain problem, rather than on geopolitics that would be counterproductive.

Mr Putin’s presence at the summit would not affect Indonesia’s relations with the West, Mr Reza said, as this reflects Indonesia’s long-held “independent and active” foreign policy, as stipulated in the nation’s Constitution.

“The West has considered Indonesia a key partner as well. We need each other,” Mr Reza said, pointing out that there are many investments by Western countries in Indonesia’s natural resources projects.

  • Additional reporting by Linda Yulisman

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