As the third G-20 Sherpa meet before the September summit came to a close in Hampi, officials said they are “confident” of being able to forge a compromise between the G-7 countries and the Russia-China combine in order to hammer out a joint declaration. For now, officials have prepared the rest of the G-20 draft, including the “development agenda”, leaving a blank place-holder for the two contentious paragraphs dealing with Ukraine to be dealt with at the fourth and final Sherpa meeting beginning September 3 in New Delhi.
Sources said the new confidence follows support from other countries during bilateral meetings and the informal “sofa talks” as well as from possible compromise language suggested by countries including Brazil and Russia. A senior U.S. official also indicated that while G-7 countries would like to see the formulations on Ukraine to repeat those used in last year’s G-20 summit at Bali, they were willing to discuss and negotiate a new text as well to describe the war in Ukraine. The Bali document, that Russia and China have now disassociated themselves from, had recorded various national positions of G-20 countries, including strong language from the G-7 countries “deploring” the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
“Several proposals are with us,” G-20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant confirmed in response to a question from The Hindu, during a briefing for journalists at the end of the three-day Sherpa meeting in Hampi. “We will continue to discuss them, but at this stage we don’t want to waste our time on just discussing geopolitics,” he added. Sources said they had already compiled about five different proposals for possible language that could forge a breakthrough in the impasse over the draft.
“Geopolitics may be important for the developed world, or maybe important for Europe, or maybe important for other parts of the world. But for developing countries and emerging markets… there are far more important issues,” Mr. Kant continued, referring to issues of debt vulnerability, inclusive growth, gender empowerment, sustainable development goals and green transition.
According to the sources, Brazil, that will host next year’s G-20 meet and has a high stake in a successful outcome and a consensus document at the summit on September 9-10, had proposed one alternative paragraph last month that was circulated to all. The proposal sought to recognise that while the Ukraine conflict had been discussed last year, members had agreed to disagree on the issue, and the development forum should not discuss security issues. However, this formula was not acceptable to all, as the U.S.-led G-7 countries believe that the security issues in Ukraine have become developmental challenges due to the rise of inflation and food, fuel and fertilizer shortages.
“What’s important is not the specific words, it doesn’t have to be an exact language. But it does need to be an accurate reflection of the challenge posed by Russia’s war in Ukraine to the global economy, I think, for us to continue to have the G-20, where Russia is sitting at the table,” a senior U.S. official told The Hindu, adding that while having a joint declaration was important for the Indian presidency, it was also important for the future G-20 summits, in Brazil, South Africa and the United States in the next few years.
A Russian proposal to discuss not just the war in Ukraine but to also discuss the impact of U.S. and European sanctions on the global economy, as well as a statement on the increased supply of military hardware to Ukraine in the midst of the conflict was not acceptable to the G-20 bloc.
“Our proposal was about the need for common ground and securing international peace and security for all, not for any one group, and not a ‘bloc’ approach,” a Russian diplomat privy to the negotiations said. While Chinese diplomats declined to say whether they planned to proffer a contribution to an alternative or compromise text, it is understood that they took exception to the “politicisation of the G-20”.
Meanwhile, officials said they took heart from the fact that all the delegates took part in what Mr. Kant called a “very successful” G-20 Sherpa meeting. A photograph circulated at the meeting showed all the 14 of 20 Sherpas who attended the meeting, including G-7, Russian and Chinese officials, taking part in an artistic activity organised in Hampi and sightseeing excursions in the 600-year-old seat of the Vijayanagara empire, as well as all the formal sessions, without “boycotting” each other.
“Given the real desire of delegates to work together for the G-20, we are confident of coming out with a text on Ukraine for the Leaders’ Joint Declaration,” an official source said, adding however that India doesn’t expect to see a full draft with the paragraphs on Ukraine completed until just prior to the summit in two months.