| 1 December 2023, Friday |

Several G20 members condemn Russia quitting Black Sea grain deal

Several G20 members condemned Russia’s move to quit an agreement that allowed safe export of grain from Ukraine, India’s finance minister said on Tuesday, as concerns rise in poorer countries over a rise in food prices following Moscow’s decision.

Russia halted participation in the United Nations-brokered Black Sea grain deal on Monday over what it called a failure to meet its demands to implement a parallel agreement easing rules for its own food and fertilizer exports.

Members of the Group of 20 major economies condemned Russia’s move during a two-day meeting of the bloc’s economic and financial policymakers in the western Indian city of Gandhingar, according to India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

“Several members condemned it saying that shouldn’t have happened… passing through the Black Sea shouldn’t have been stopped or suspended,” she told reporters at the end of the meeting on Tuesday.

Russia suspended the deal hours after a blast knocked out its bridge to Crimea in what Moscow called a strike by Ukrainian sea drones. The Kremlin, however, said there was no link between the attack and its decision to suspend the grain deal.

G20 financial leaders have not been able to reach “a common language” on the war in Ukraine, which started on Feb. 20, 2022, Sitharaman said.

The lack of consensus resulted in India, which has held the G20 presidency since December, issuing a chair summary at the end of meeting rather than a joint statement.

The summary said most G20 members condemned the war in Ukraine, with the exception of China and Russia, who distanced themselves from the document with China stating that the forum was not the right place to discuss geopolitical issues.

Sitharaman said India based the statement on the language from last year’s G20 leader’s summit in Bali, adding it was now up to leaders to make a call on any changes during a summit in September.

Diplomatic struggles

India hopes to secure consensus on reforms for multilateral banks, develop a global principle on cryptocurrencies and accelerate debt resolution for vulnerable countries during its G20 presidency. But the Russia-Ukraine conflict has cast a long shadow over global diplomacy.

During the talks in Gandhingar, most western nations including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France had pushed for a firm condemnation of Russia and the war in Ukraine, while Russia and China had opposed this, an Indian government official said earlier, requesting anonymity.

India struggled to draft a final communique acceptable to all members, the official said, as some countries insisted on calling the conflict a war, while Russia refers to its campaign, now in its sixteenth month, as a “special military operation”.

India has adopted a largely neutral stance, declining to blame Russia for the invasion and urging a diplomatic solution, while also increasing purchases of discounted oil from Russia.

On Saturday, an Indian official told Reuters that brokering peace between Russia and Ukraine was beyond the remit of the G20.

The gathering in the western state of Gujarat was the G20’s third finance track meeting under India’s presidency. India has not been able to forge a joint statement in any of the key tracks since it took over the presidency of G20 last December.

Some officials said the acrimony was less than they had seen during the first meetings held in Bengaluru in February, even though countries had remained firm on their stance.

At the close of the Bengaluru meetings, the lack of consensus among the G20 members meant India resorted to issuing a “chair’s summary and outcome document” in which it simply summed up the two days of talks and noted disagreements.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat