G20 finance ministers again failed Saturday to agree a joint statement on the global economy at talks in India, after China sought to water down references to the Ukraine war.
Instead current G20 president India issued a “chair’s summary” which said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine” and that there were “different assessments of the situation and sanctions” at the two-day meeting in Bengaluru.
A footnote said two paragraphs in the summary about the war, which it said were adapted from the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration in November, “were agreed to by all member countries except Russia and China”.
Spain’s representative Nadia Calvino had said earlier that because of “less constructive” approaches by some unspecified countries at the talks among the world’s top 20 economies, agreeing on a statement was “difficult”.
China wanted to change the language of the statement from November, officials told AFP, with one saying on condition of anonymity that Beijing wanted to remove the word “war”.
Previous meetings of G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs have also failed to produce a common communique since Russia, a member of the grouping, invaded its neighbour last February.
China has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the conflict while maintaining close ties with strategic ally Russia.
Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi was in Moscow on Wednesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is due at a G20 foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi next week.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua quoted Wang as saying China was willing to “deepen political trust” and “strengthen strategic coordination” with Russia.
On Friday, the first anniversary of the invasion, China published a 12-point paper calling for a “political settlement” to the crisis that was met with scepticism from Ukraine’s allies.
G20 host India has also refused to condemn Russia, which is New Delhi’s biggest arms supplier and has become a major source of oil for India since the invasion.
Western countries — including the United States, Germany and France — had insisted the language in any joint statement could not be weaker than the communique issued by G20 leaders in Indonesia in November.
“This is a war. And this war has a cause, has one cause, and that is Russia and Vladimir Putin. That must be expressed clearly at this G20 finance meeting,” German Finance Minister Christian Lindner told a news conference on Friday.
The gathering also focused on debt relief for poorer countries hit by rocketing inflation because of the war.
The International Monetary Fund said ahead of the meeting that around 15 percent of low-income countries were in debt distress and an additional 45 percent were at high risk.
Western officials including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on China to take “haircuts” on its loans to debt-stricken nations such as Zambia and Sri Lanka.
China wants multilateral lenders including the World Bank — which Beijing sees as Western-controlled — also to restructure their loans, but the United States and others oppose this.
Other topics in Bengaluru included efforts towards a global tax on tech giants, and widening the remit of multilateral development banks such as the World Bank to help nations hit by climate change.