The finance ministers of the Group of 20 countries wrapped up a two-day meeting Saturday in India without issuing a joint statement after China and Russia objected to references that other members wanted to make on Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine.
With no consensus, India, which holds the G-20 presidency this year, said in what is called a “chair’s summary” that "most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy."
Stating that it is essential to uphold international law, the summary said that “the use of or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.”
The declaration noted that references to the war were “agreed to by all member countries except Russia and China.”
The meeting that began Friday in India’s southern city of Bengaluru, coincided with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The strong differences that emerged were similar to disagreements that have marred several such gatherings since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
At a G-20 summit held in Bali in November of last year, leaders had bridged their differences by issuing a statement that said that “most members strongly condemned the war.”
However, at the meeting of finance ministers held in India, China did not want the word “war” mentioned in the joint statement, even as the United States and several Western countries insisted on a strong condemnation of the Russian aggression.
India’s Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth told a news conference the Chinese and Russian representatives did not want to sign up to the wording on Ukraine because "their mandate is to deal with economic and financial issues."
"On the other hand, all the other 18 countries felt that the war has implications for the global economy," he said.
German finance minister Christian Lindner said that China’s refusal to join the declaration was regrettable. Reuters quoted U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen telling the news agency that it was “absolutely necessary” for any statement to condemn Russia.
The summary issued by India also underlined other divisions among member countries on the war in Ukraine, saying there were “different assessments of the situation and sanctions."
At the G-20 meeting, countries such as the U.S., France and Britain said they are announcing stronger sanctions against Moscow as they emphasized the need to isolate Russia for its invasion.
India, on the other hand, which has decades-old ties with Russia, has not joined the economic sanctions imposed on Russia and continues to maintain strong trade ties with Moscow.
“We are looking at India's interests and importing oil from Russia,” India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, told reporters at the end of the meeting.
Global economic risks persist, says summary
The G-20, which represents the world’s largest economies, was created after the Asian financial crisis in 1999, and it is seen as a forum that focuses on how to manage global economic crises.
The summary document issued by India said the global economic outlook had "modestly improved," although overall growth remains "slow" and risks persist, including elevated inflation, a resurgence of the pandemic, and high debt in many poorer nations.
The discussions also focused on easing the debt burden of nations — such as Sri Lanka — that are reeling under the impact of higher food and oil prices, and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion.