A deepening rift between Western countries and Russia over the Ukraine war has prevented a consensus from emerging at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of 20 countries, as both sides blamed each other for the crisis.
An outcome statement issued by India at the end of the meeting on Thursday said that “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.”
India's foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said the meeting in New Delhi had been unable to firm up a joint declaration owing to “very polarized views” over the war in Ukraine.
"On the issue, which very frankly concerned the Ukraine conflict, there were divergences, there were differences, which we couldn't reconcile between various parties," Jaishankar told reporters. "We tried, but the gap between the countries was too much."
Amid soaring tensions over the Ukraine war, the U.S. and its Western allies underlined the need for member countries to maintain pressure on Russia to end the conflict and respond firmly to its aggression, while Moscow blamed the West for the global political and economic crises.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the G-20 meeting was marred by Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine and deliberate campaign of destruction against civilian targets.” He said that “we must continue to call on Russia to end its war of aggression for the sake of international peace and economic stability.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Western delegations “turned the work on the G-20 agenda into a farce, wanting to shift the responsibility for their failures in the economy to the Russian Federation." He accused the West of "burying" a deal to allow some Ukrainian grain exports.
Blinken also met with his Russian counterpart Lavrov briefly on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting, where he underscored Washington is prepared to support Ukraine in defending itself for as long as it takes, according to a U.S. State Department official.
The first one-on-one meeting in person between the top American and Russian diplomats since the Ukraine invasion lasted less than 10 minutes.
Blinken also called on Russia to reverse its decision to suspend participation in the New Start nuclear arms treaty and to release detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan.
The Russian foreign ministry said Lavrov and Blinken spoke "on the move" but did not hold negotiations or a meeting, Reuters reported, quoting Russian news agencies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had suspended participation in the treaty last week after accusing the West of being directly involved in attempts to strike its strategic air bases.
While the Ukraine crisis was expected to dominate the meeting, India, which holds the G-20 presidency this year, had urged the ministers to set aside their differences and focus on the needs of the developing world.
“As the leading economies of the world, we also have a responsibility toward those who are not in this room,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a video address to the delegates at the start of the talks.
Saying that the experience of the last few years shows global governance has failed, Modi said that “no group can claim global leadership without listening to those most affected by its decisions. We should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can.”
He said the world looks to the G-20 to address issues such as growth, development, economic and disaster resilience, financial stability, corruption, terrorism, and food and energy security.
Foreign Minister Jaishankar said the delegations came to an agreement in many areas, including climate action, biodiversity, gender issues, and new emerging technologies.
India has maintained a neutral position on the Ukraine conflict, only going as far as saying that this is “not an era for war.” It has not joined Western sanctions and has increased its purchases of crude oil from Russia.
India aims to use its G-20 presidency to set the stage for playing a greater role on the global stage and wanted to deliver agreements that could help address problems faced by the developing world.
Both a meeting of G-20 finance ministers that India hosted last week and Thursday’s foreign ministers’ meeting have concluded without issuing a joint statement, as the Ukraine conflict drives a deeper wedge between Western countries and Russia while the war enters its second year.
The Indian and Chinese foreign ministers also met on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting, signaling a thaw in their tense relations.
Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar said the talks had “focused on addressing current challenges to the bilateral relationship, especially peace and tranquility in the border areas.”