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G20 finance chiefs end their meeting in India without consensus on the war in Ukraine

A meeting of finance chiefs and central bank governors of the Group of 20 leading economies ended on Tuesday in India without a consensus because of differences between countries over the war in Ukraine.
Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Mathias Hubert Paul Cormann arrives to attend G-20’s third Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBGs) meeting in Gandhinagar, India, Tuesday, July 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

A meeting of finance chiefs and central bank governors of the Group of 20 leading economies ended on Tuesday in India without a consensus because of differences between countries over the war in Ukraine.

Following two days of talks, there was no final communique. Instead, India, as the host nation, was forced to issue the G20 Chair’s summary and an outcome document.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting concluded in Gandhinagar, a city in the western state of Gujarat, India’s finance minister said the reason for the chair statement was “because we still don’t have a common language on the Russia-Ukraine war”.

Nirmala Sitharaman said that the language describing the war had been drawn directly from last year’s G20 leaders summit declaration in Indonesia. “We don’t have the mandate to change that,” she said, adding that this was something the leaders would have to decide when they gather in the capital, New Delhi, for the main summit in September.

According to the chair summary, China and Russia objected to paragraphs referring to the war which said it was causing “immense human suffering” and “exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy”. The wording was taken from the previous declaration in Indonesia, where leaders had strongly condemned the war.

Similarly in February and March, when India hosted G20 finance chiefs and foreign ministers, objections from Russia and China meant that India had to issue a chair’s summary.

Food security was a key priority, Sitharaman said. Members raised Russia’s move Monday to halt the deal that allowed grain to flow from Ukraine via the Black Sea to parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia where high food prices have pushed more people into poverty.

“It is in that context today that several members condemned it, saying it shouldn’t have happened. Food passing through the Black Sea shouldn’t have been stopped or suspended,” she told reporters.

During its presidency of the G20 this year, India has consistently appealed for all members of the fractured grouping to reach consensus on issues of particular concern to poorer countries, like debt distress, inflation and the threat of climate change, even if the broader East-West split over Ukraine can’t be resolved.

Sitharaman said that members held wide discussions on the overall global economic outlook, paying specific attention to food and energy issues, climate financing and how to improve assistance to debt-distressed countries.

As host, India has used its presidency to promote itself as a rising superpower and as the voice of the Global South. Still, the divide over Russia’s war in Ukraine has cast a shadow over much of the proceedings, with India unable to produce a communique after any of the major meetings since it took over the G20 presidency.

India’s longstanding ties to Russia have also loomed as the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine continues despite U.S. and allied countries’ efforts to sanction and economically bludgeon Russia’s economy. India has not taken part in the efforts to punish Russia and maintains its energy ties despite a Group of Seven agreed-upon price cap on Russian oil, which has seen some success in slowing Russia’s economy.

Meanwhile, Western officials have continued to speak out against Moscow in international groupings. Over the weekend, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who is in India to attend the G20 talks, told reporters that ending the war in Ukraine “is first and foremost a moral imperative. But it’s also the single best thing we can do for the global economy.”

She added the U.S. would continue to cut off Russia’s access to the military equipment and technologies that it needs to wage war against Ukraine.

Krutika Pathi, The Associated Press