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G20 meeting ends in discord as Russia and China refuse to condemn Ukraine war

A gathering of G20 finance ministers in Bengaluru has ended in discord after Russia and China refused to endorse a statement condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and rejecting the use of nuclear weapons.

The meeting broke up on Saturday without agreement on a joint communique from members’ finance ministers and central bank governors.

Instead India, which holds the G20 presidency, issued a “chair’s summary and outcome document”. It was backed by delegates from 17 of the group’s 20 members, which include the world’s largest advanced and developing economies; Russia and China did not endorse it.

The document reiterated the position taken by G20 leaders at a summit last year in Bali, when they deplored “in the strongest terms” Russia’s war on Ukraine and demanded Russia’s “complete and unconditional” withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.

The document also repeated the Bali summit’s declaration that “the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible”. 

Ajay Seth of India’s finance ministry said Russian and Chinese delegates, who did not attend the Bengaluru meeting in person, had argued that the war and its consequences were beyond the mandate of finance ministers and central bank governors.

Other members “felt that the war has implications for the global economy, so it was right to have those paragraphs”, he said.

The disagreement over the communique highlights tensions within the G20 over its members’ positions on the war.

The summary document said that “most” members other than Russia and China strongly condemned the war in Ukraine, which it said is causing “immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy”.

Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s finance minister, refused to say whether India was among the members that condemned the war. On Thursday, India abstained in a UN General Assembly vote condemning the war, along with China. Russia voted against the UN resolution.

Sitharaman said that India had signed up to the G20 leaders’ declaration in Bali, from which the language of Saturday’s summary document was taken.

German finance minister Christian Lindner said the failure to reach agreement on the communique was “regrettable”. “But for me it was more important that all the others adhered to a clear position of international law, multilateralism and the end of the war,” Lindner said.

“It’s becoming difficult for the G20 to engage in constructive discussion because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is an act that shakes the foundations of the global order,” Japanese finance minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters in remarks reported by Reuters.

Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, had said on Friday that France would refuse to sign any communique that involved stepping back from the Bali declaration.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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