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Russia’s war in Ukraine overshadows G20 talks in Bali

JAKARTA – Foreign ministers from the Group of 20 top rich and developing nations gather on the Indonesian resort island of Bali for talks that are bound to be dominated by the conflict in Ukraine, despite an agenda centered on global cooperation and food and energy security.

The one-day meeting takes place on Friday on the predominantly Hindu “Island of the Gods” in the predominantly Muslim archipelago.

To underscore the background of the tensions hanging over the meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov stopped in various Asian capitals on their way to Bali to solicit support and cement their ties in the region ahead of the talks.

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The United States and its allies have sought to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin in as many ways as possible, including threatening to boycott the G-20 Bali summit in November unless Putin is removed from the forum.

As this year’s President of the G-20, Indonesia is forced to play a more constructive role on the world stage, rather than simply acting as a “host”. The country has tried to remain neutral in dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and President Joko Widodo was guarded in his comments.

Widodo was the first Asian leader to visit the warring countries. Ukraine is not a member of the G-20, but Vidodo has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the November summit along with Putin, hoping to placate all sides and limit any distraction from the forum’s agenda.

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Zelenskyy said he will not attend if the war then continues and has chosen to follow the discussions via video link. Widodo is said to have told Italian Prime Minister Marion Draghi on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Germany that Putin would not come either. Moscow said a decision has not yet been made.

That seeming compromise could be put to the test when G-20 foreign ministers gather in Bali’s heavily guarded tourist paradise of Nusa Dua to lay the groundwork for the 17th summit of western economic powerhouses.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing are also evident: on Wednesday, China launched a devastating attack on the US and NATO, just days before the meeting of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Chinese Foreign Minister in Bali.

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Washington “respects international rules only as it sees fit,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing. He said the “so-called rules-based international order is actually a family rule set up by a handful of countries to serve US self-interest.”

A key goal of the talks will be to find ways to improve food security at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stifled world markets and sent prices of meat, dairy, grains, sugar and vegetable oils skyrocketing .

“These visits are important not only for Indonesians but also for other developing countries to prevent people in developing and low-income countries from falling into extreme poverty and hunger,” Widodo told journalists before leaving for Germany on June 26 jakarta

Russia and Ukraine account for a third of world wheat exports, and Ukraine alone grows enough grain to feed 400 million people. But Moscow’s blockade means Kyiv can only move 2 million tons a month, 60% less than usual.

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Millions of tons of Ukrainian grain are waiting in silos to be shipped through secure Black Sea corridors. Ukraine is also one of the world’s top exporters of corn and sunflower oil, but the Russian invasion has stopped most of that flow. Such disruptions threaten the food supply of many developing countries, particularly in Africa.

The crisis is having inflationary effects in Indonesia, including a flour shortage that is forcing local companies to raise the politically sensitive price of instant noodles, a hugely popular Indonesian staple.

Russia has pledged to increase its wheat exports to Indonesia. Last year these amounted to just 2,955 tons compared to the 3 million tons imported from Ukraine.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters it was important to achieve a resumption of grain exports from Ukraine and food and fertilizer exports from Russia to end shortages and bring down prices.

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Soaring cooking oil costs prompted Indonesia, which has been hit by student protests over soaring food prices, to temporarily ban the export of palm oil products. Exports of crude palm oil, used in a variety of foods, cosmetics and other products, resumed a month later.

Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia are the world’s largest exporters of palm oil, accounting for 85% of global production.

The foreign ministers who traveled to Bali on Thursday are from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the USA and the European Union.

Blinken is scheduled to meet with Wang, Beijing’s top envoy, on Saturday. The meeting will be the latest high-level contact between US and Chinese officials as Washington has questioned China’s stance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two sides could also discuss a possible lifting by President Joe Biden’s administration of US tariffs on imports from China to stem inflation.

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During his stay in Bali, Lavrov will hold meetings with his counterparts from other countries, including China, Mexico, South Africa and Brazil, on the sidelines of the G-20 foreign ministers. According to the Russian embassy in Jakarta, he also plans to hold consultations with invited heads of international organizations.

The members of the G-20 account for around 80% of global economic output, two thirds of the world population and around three quarters of world trade.

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/07/07/russias-war-in-ukraine-to-overshadow-g20-talks-in-bali/ Russia’s war in Ukraine overshadows G20 talks in Bali

Sarah Y. Kim

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