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The G-20 meeting could lead to further disagreements over the war in Ukraine

WASHINGTON – Foreign ministers of the world’s largest nations want to address the issue war in Ukraine and its implications for global energy and food security when they meet in Indonesia this week. But instead of creating unity, the talks could exacerbate existing differences in the Ukraine conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend the Group of 20 meeting Indonesian resort of Baliwhich will set the stage for a summit of G-20 heads of state and government at the same venue in November.

It’s the first time Blinken and Lavrov have been in the same room, let alone the same city, since January. There’s no indication the two will meet separately, but even without a one-on-one with Lavrov, Blinken could get into some difficult discussions.

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The State Department said Tuesday that Blinken will hold separate talks with Wang at a time when already strained US-China relations have been soured by Beijing’s friendly ties with Moscow.

And unlike recent senior-level meetings with NATO allies and other like-minded partners, Blinken will find himself among diplomats from countries suspicious of US action on Ukraine and concerned about its impact on them.

US officials say Wang Blinken will be in Bali for bilateral talks with colleagues from countries that were not on par with the West on Russia’s invasion, particularly India, which has increased purchases of Russian oil, as has the US and Europe tries to choke off this source of income for Moscow.

In announcing that Blinken would meet Wang in Bali, the State Department said little about the possibility that he might see Lavrov, whom the US has shunned since invading Ukraine in February.

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The department said there would be no formal meeting between Blinken and Lavrov, whom US officials accuse of a lack of seriousness before, during and after the invasion of Ukraine.

“We want the Russians to take diplomacy seriously,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “We haven’t seen that yet. We want the Russians to give us a reason to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov on a bilateral basis, but the only thing we have seen from Moscow is more brutality and aggression against the people and the country of Ukraine.”

The Biden administration claims there can be no “business as usual” with Moscow as long as the war continues. But neither Price nor other US officials could rule out the possibility of a chance encounter between Blinken and Lavrov in Bali, which would be their first since they last met in Geneva in January. Price declined to speak about what he called the “choreography” of the G-20.

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Like almost all recent international diplomatic meetings, the Bali meeting is overshadowed by Ukraine. But unlike the Western-dominated G-7 and NATO summits held in Europe last week, the G-20 will have a different character.

China and many other participants, including India, South Africa and Brazil, have resisted joining the massive US and European opposition to the Russian invasion. Some have flatly rejected Western pleas to join in condemning the conflict, which the US and its allies see as an attack on the international rules-based order that has been in place since the end of World War II.

Therefore, reaching a G-20 consensus on efforts to mitigate the food and energy impact of the Ukraine conflict can be difficult, especially when China and Russia are in the space. That won’t stop the US from trying, according to American officials.

They want the G-20 to throw its weight behind a United Nations-backed initiative to clear some 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain for export mainly to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

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“We want the G-20 to hold Russia accountable and insist that it support this initiative,” said Ramin Toloui, deputy secretary of state for economic and business affairs.

While a host of nations, including G-20 host Indonesia, are pushing for Russia to ease its Black Sea blockade to allow grain access to world markets, they remain wary of angering Moscow and its friends in Beijing.

And that divergence has set the stage for a potentially contentious preparatory meeting ahead of November’s G-20 summit on questions about the Russian president Wladimir Putin will compete.

The US has made it clear that it does not believe Putin should attend, but has urged Indonesia to invite the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy should the Russian leader attend.

Meanwhile, the US and China are locked in serious arguments over numerous issues ranging from trade and human rights to Taiwan and disputes in the South China Sea.

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Blinken’s meeting with Wang was announced after China’s trade representative in Washington expressed concerns about US tariffs on Chinese imports during a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Neither side gave any indication that progress was being made on the matter, and US officials downplayed the chances of short-term breakthroughs.

In his meeting with Wang, US officials said Blinken would instead push to keep lines of communication open and create “guard rails” to guide the world’s two largest economies in tackling increasingly complex and potentially explosive affairs.

“It is absolutely critical that we have open lines of communication with our Chinese counterparts, particularly at high levels… to ensure we prevent miscalculations that could inadvertently lead to conflict and confrontation,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US diplomat for Asia .

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From Bali, Blinken will travel to Bangkok, Thailand, to make up for a trip to the Thai capital that he had to cancel late last year due to COVID-19. Alongside Thai officials, Blinken will meet with refugees who have fled ongoing political violence and repression in Myanmar since a coup ousted a civilian government in February 2021.

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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/07/06/g-20-meeting-may-lead-to-wider-divisions-over-war-in-ukraine/ The G-20 meeting could lead to further disagreements over the war in Ukraine

Sarah Y. Kim

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