Must avoid 'another Cold War': Indonesia leader tells G20

The ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine is a central topic here, as multiple nations discuss the possibilities of its end


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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Tue 15 Nov 2022, 8:45 AM

On Tuesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged G20 leaders to "end the war" as he opened a summit dominated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with Washington and allies heaping pressure on Moscow.

"Being responsible means creating net zero-sum situations; being responsible here also means that we must end the war," Widodo said.

The United States and its allies are looking to pin painfully high global food and fuel prices squarely at President Vladimir Putin's door during the gathering.

Eyeing a joint G20 declaration that would condemn the eight-month-old crisis, US and European officials have painted the summit as evidence of Russia's deepening isolation.

"I think you're going to see most members of the G20 make clear that they condemn [the issue]", a senior US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


However, it remained far from clear that Russia's G20 allies China, India and South Africa would condemn Putin so explicitly. Such a condemnation at the G20 would be a heavy diplomatic defeat for Moscow.

European Council president Charles Michel signalled that while a draft agreement had been agreed to in principle, there was still work to be done.

"I am absolutely convinced that we should try to use the meeting today and tomorrow to convince all of the parties to put more pressure on Russia," he told media as the summit opened.

G20 leaders are gathered in Bali as soaring inflation drives millions more into poverty and tips several nations toward recession.

US allies hope to find common ground with G20 nations that — while cautious about denouncing Russia — are also deeply concerned about rising prices.

G20 members Argentina and Turkey are among the countries worst hit by food inflation, while India and South Africa have avoided criticism of Moscow.

Putin is, however, skipping the summit.

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky — fresh from a visit to Kherson — addressed G20 leaders in a video message.

Russia is represented by Sergei Lavrov, despite the veteran foreign minister making two Bali hospital trips in as many days for an undisclosed ailment. Moscow denied that the top diplomat had been hospitalised.

Lavrov is not seen as part of Putin's inner circle — meaning the chance of a diplomatic breakthrough to end the conflict is vanishingly small.

With Zelensky and Putin absent, "there is little chance of any real peace diplomacy in Bali", claimed Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group.

Still, French President Emmanuel Macron has kept an olive branch extended. He will call Putin after the G20 summit, according to a senior French official.

A deal allowing Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea is likely to be another focus of conversation.

This deal expires on November 19, and Russia has already threatened to rip it up.

On Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "hopeful" the deal would be extended, calling it crucial for food security.

Ukraine is one of the world's top grain producers, but the crisis had blocked 20 million tonnes of grain in its ports before the United Nations and Turkey brokered the deal in July.

"We need urgent action to prevent famine and hunger in a growing number of places around the world," Guterres said.

The summit build-up has also focused on Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is making only his second overseas trip since the pandemic.

On Tuesday, he meets with French President Emmanuel Macron and Australia's Anthony Albanese, a day after a first presidential sitdown with Biden.

The pair cooled Cold War rhetoric in a three-hour summit as they tried to take some of the heat out of their simmering superpower rivalry.

"The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship," Xi told Biden.

Former US diplomat Danny Russel described the meeting as broadly positive.

"We should beware of prematurely declaring the strategic rivalry over. However, we saw a deliberate effort to stabilise a dangerously overheated relationship."

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