Indonesia asked the G20 to support putting an end to the conflict in Ukraine as the group’s foreign ministers gathered for a summit that brought some of the most ardent opponents of Russia’s invasion together with Moscow’s top diplomat.
The conflict and its effects on the world economy have dominated the lead-up to the gathering on the Indonesian island of Bali, with top officials from Western nations and Japan underlining that it would not be “business as usual” there.
Shouts of “When will you stop the war” and “Why don’t you stop the war” were heard as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shook hands with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi at the start of the meeting.
Underlining tensions in the buildup, Retno said earlier G7 counterparts had informed her they could not join Thursday’s welcome dinner where Lavrov was present.
“It is our responsibility to end the war sooner than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not at the battlefield,” she said on Friday at the opening of talks.
Invoking Indonesia’s religious diversity as a example of how divergent beliefs can co-exist harmoniously, Retno urged the G20 to “find a way forward” to address the challenges rippling across the globe. She said the repercussions of the war, including rising energy and food prices, would hit low-income countries the hardest.
A senior official for the Indonesian foreign ministry told Reuters no communique was expected from Friday’s meeting.
“With Russia’s presence and participation, certainly I doubt there would be consensus on Ukraine, for example,” a senior U.S. State Department official said ahead of the summit.
Russia’s invasion has cast a cloud over Indonesia’s presidency of the Group of 20 largest economies this year, with speculation of boycotts from some members and a walkout in April at a finance ministers’ meeting in Washington.
Retno said late on Thursday it was important for the host to “create an atmosphere that’s comfortable for everybody”, noting it was the first time since the February 24invasion of Ukraine that all major players were sitting in the same room.
Lavrov was seated between representatives from Saudi Arabia and Mexico at Friday’s meeting.
A senior U.S. State Department official said on Thursday it was important to prevent “disruptions or interruptions” to the G20 agenda, while ensuring nothing took place that could legitimise Russia’s “brutalising” of Ukraine.
After discussions on the issue of Ukraine with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing opposed any act of hyping up bloc confrontation, and creating a “new Cold War”.
Russia’s invasion, which it calls a “special military operation”, has caused major disruption to the global economy, with a blockade on Ukrainian grain and sanctions on Russian oil and gas driving a food crisis and global spike in inflation.
Friday’s agenda includes a closed meeting with top diplomats of G20 countries including China, India, the United States, Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Africa, as well as bilateral talks on the sidelines. Ukraine’s foreign minister is expected to address the meeting virtually.
Lavrov met Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali on Thursday, during which he praised Beijing but lashed out at an “openly aggressive” West.
For the first time in three years, the Chinese and Australian foreign ministers will hold talks on the sidelines of the meeting on Friday, signalling a thaw in relations that has soured over claims of foreign interference and retaliatory trade sanctions.
Absent from Friday’s meeting was British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who was represented by Tim Barrow, second permanent under-secretary at the foreign office. Truss had cut her Bali trip short after the resignation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, media reports said.