G-20 Joint Communiqué | Russia accepts a para on Ukraine war

At G-20 meet, China continues to oppose a joint document saying geopolitical issues should not be included in the statements and South Africa introduces new concerns

Updated - July 23, 2023 01:05 pm IST

Published - July 22, 2023 10:07 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Delegates attend the G­-20 Energy Transition Ministerial meeting under the chairmanship of Power Minister R.K. Singh in Goa on July 22, 2023.

Delegates attend the G­-20 Energy Transition Ministerial meeting under the chairmanship of Power Minister R.K. Singh in Goa on July 22, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

Indian G-20 negotiators have made some progress on building a consensus, as Russia has dropped its objections on one of the two paragraphs on the war in Ukraine that have been carried over from last year’s Bali Declaration, during the latest Ministerial meetings. 

While the two meetings — that of G-20 Labour Ministers held in Indore that ended on July 21, and the G-20 Energy Transition Ministerial in Goa on July 22 failed once again to issue joint communiqués, the footnotes marking Russia’s objections now only relates to one paragraph that is critical of Moscow’s role in the Ukraine war. Russia accepted the second para, which deals more generally with the need to “uphold international law”. However, objections from China and, now, South Africa have raised new worries for the negotiators.

According to the footnote in the Chair’s Summary part of the document released in Goa, Russia “expressed its distinct view on the situation in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions and sanctions during the meeting”, in an indication that while Russia removed objections to one paragraph, the differences in position were debated openly during the Ministerial. The paragraph Russia is now comfortable with includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that “Today’s era is not of war”. 

China, however, maintained its opposition to all “geopolitical issues” being included in the statements, indicating that the Ukraine war must not be mentioned. 

“China stated that G-20 is not the right platform to address security issues and opposed the inclusion of the geopolitical related content,” the footnotes in both the Labour Ministers meet and the Energy Transition meet Chair’s summary read.

Another new concern has emerged as South Africa asked to include a footnote on the Ukraine paragraphs in the Labour Ministers meeting, indicating  that the language over the war, that had been agreed to during the Bali summit may no longer be acceptable to all G-20 members. 

South Africa’s position is premised on the fact that Sherpas have not concluded discussions on [paragraph on war in Ukraine].

G-20 secretariat sources said that the changes in Russia’s position are a “positive step”, and meant that there were still ways to negotiate a final communiqué that would be released during the leaders’ summit in Delhi on September 9-10.

While Sherpa Amitabh Kant and his team of negotiators led talks with other Sherpas in Hampi last week, they indicated that the “Ukraine question” would be left to the last, while other parts of the draft leaders’ declaration of more than 50 paragraphs are negotiated over the next few weeks. Sherpas and their deputies ‘Sous-Sherpas’ are expected to hold sustained talks from August 1-3 via videoconference to look at what is called the “Zero-Draft” or first full draft of the document circulated at Hampi.  

If India fails to issue a “Leaders’ Declaration” as the joint communiqué is called, it would be the first time since the G-20 grouping of global economies began in 1999, and was upgraded to the leader-level summit in 2008, that countries are unable to agree on a common document. Thus far, no G-20 Ministerial under India’s Presidency has been able to come up with a joint statement, given Russia and China’s objections to the “Bali paragraphs”, while the G-7 countries, including U.S., Europe and Japan have insisted on the inclusion of the language critical of Russia.

However, the sources said that it was heartening that there was consensus over large parts of the rest of India’s G-20 agenda on development issues and “ambitious outcomes” had emerged from each of the Ministerial meetings.

Clean energy concerns

Meanwhile, the G-20 Energy Transition Ministerial meeting in Goa ran into some trouble over issues like the need to “phase-down” rather than “phase-out” fossil fuels, as well as over climate finance in the document. While India and other developing countries want to curb demands to “phase-out” fossil fuels as they are still largely dependent on coal-based thermal power for development, more advanced economies have been pushing for quicker targets to end the construction of new coal-fired power plants and fossil fuel use.

Also read |Ukraine war not a priority of G-20 presidency, says India

“We did not fail to negotiate,” said Minister of Power and Renewable Energy R.K. Singh, addressing a press conference in Goa on Saturday. “If there’s no unanimity, and even one country doesn’t agree to the [statement], then the document becomes the Chair’s Summary, rather than a consensus document,” he added, referring to issues over seven paragraphs where there were objections from various countries.

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