Blinken presses Russia’s Lavrov over Ukraine on G20 sidelines

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The United States and Russia met to air their differences in their highest one-to-one contact since the invasion of Ukraine last year on the sidelines of a G20 meeting dominated by divisions over the conflict.

US Secretary of State and Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke briefly at the meeting of the world’s top diplomats in New Delhi, which failed to reach a joint declaration after objections from Moscow’s delegation.

Lavrov told the assembled foreign ministers that Western representatives had derailed the meeting in an effort to scapegoat Russia for their own failings, disrespecting efforts by the Indian hosts to reach agreement on other issues.

“I want to apologise to the Indian presidency and to our colleagues from countries of the global South for the obscene behaviour of some Western delegations, which have turned the G20’s agenda into a farce,” Lavrov said, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Blinken met briefly with Lavrov on the sidelines of the talks to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to protecting Ukraine after growing support from European allies for peace initiatives.

Blinken wanted to “disabuse the Russians of any notion that our support might be wavering” on Ukraine, a US official said on condition of anonymity.

Thursday’s G20 meeting looked set to draw to a close without a joint statement — the second such meeting of the bloc to fail to reach an accord in as many weeks after delegates failed to reach a consensus position on Ukraine.

“On the issue, which very frankly concerned the Ukraine conflict, there were divergences, there were differences, which we couldn’t reconcile,” Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar told reporters.

Discussions over the joint statement faltered on several issues including Russia’s insistence on an investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline last year, Lavrov told reporters through an interpreter.

Russia and Western countries have traded accusations of responsibility for the September explosions.

The last time Blinken and Lavrov were in the same room, at a G20 meeting in Bali last July, the latter stormed out according to Western officials. 

Russia’s war with Ukraine has crowded out other agenda items at the G20, frustrating India, which said it wanted to use its year as host to focus on issues such as alleviating poverty and climate finance.

“The experience of the last few years — financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism and wars — clearly shows that global governance has failed,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in recorded remarks opening the meeting.

“We all have our positions and our perspectives on how these tensions (can) be resolved. However, as the leading economies of the world, we also have a responsibility for those who are not in this room,” he added.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, visiting New Delhi to inaugurate a strategic partnership, called on her hosts to use its leverage as G20 hosts to held bring the Ukraine conflict to an end.

“We both hope that India having the presidency of the G20 may play a central role in facilitating a negotiated process for the cessation of hostilities for a just peace,” she said.

While India has not condemned the Ukraine invasion, Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin last year this was “not a time for war”.

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