G20 talks underway in Nusa Dua in Indonesia on November 15, 2022. Image Credit: WAM

NUSA DUA, Indonesia: Leaders of the world’s largest economies appeared ready on Tuesday to convey a strong message from most condemning Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, as President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed the group to maintain pressure on Moscow over its nine-month war that has devastated Ukraine and roiled the global economy.

A draft declaration by leaders of the Group of 20 major economies under discussion echoes the condemnation of Russia’s war on Ukraine by the United Nations, while acknowledging differing views among members. The careful wording of the statement reflects tensions prevailing at the gathering, which includes leaders from Russia and China, and the challenge facing the US and its allies to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government as some nations seek to avoid becoming entangled in antagonisms between the big powers.

The statement seen on Tuesday by The Associated Press “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation’’ and “demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.”

The G-20 draft statement also noted there were different views on the situation and sanctions against Russia, saying that the G-20 was not the forum for resolving security issues.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced the US lead effort to condemn Moscow.

“All problems are on the Ukrainian side that categorically refuses to hold any talks and comes up with conditions obviously unrealistic and inadequate to this situation,” said Lavrov, who led the Russian delegation to the summit.

Biden skipped out on an evening gala for the leaders hosted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, to attend to unspecified matters. Biden sent to his regrets to Widodo and said he would attend a planned tree plant with fellow G-20 leaders on Wednesday, according to a White House official. The official, who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that Biden’s absence from the gathering was not related to COVID-19.

Speaking to G-20 leaders by video, Zelensky joined Biden in trying to persuade the G-20 to further isolate Russia diplomatically and economically, despite a souring global financial outlook that has tested many nations’ resolve.

Inflation and slowing economies are weighing on countries that have imposed penalties on Russia for starting the war. Higher costs for energy and food have destabilized business activity around the world, as much of Europe prepares to brave the winter without imports of Russian natural gas.

10 conditions for ending the conflict

In opening the summit, Widodo impressed on the gathering what’s at stake. “If the war does not end, it will be difficult for the world to move forward,’’ he said.

In a video address to the leaders from Kyiv, Zelensky reiterated 10 conditions for ending the conflict that began in February, among them a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and full restoration of Ukrainian control of its territory. He spoke days after Ukraine retook the strategic city of Kherson from Russian forces.

“Ukraine should not be offered to conclude compromises with its conscience, sovereignty, territory and independence,” he said. “Ukraine has always been a leader in peacekeeping efforts, and the world has witnessed it. And if Russia says that it supposedly wants to end this war, let it prove it with actions.”

Grain exports

The European Council president, Charles Michel, also urged other global powers to intensify pressure on Russia. But it was unclear how many nations would embrace the relatively tough language in a final statement.

At the summit, Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who played a pivotal role this summer in brokering a deal to open up Ukrainian grain exports to ease global food shortages. Biden also met briefly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose cooperation is needed to secure a US-sought price cap on Russian oil to limit the profits Moscow uses to invest in its defense base.

Separately, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres held a lengthy meeting on Tuesday with Lavrov to discuss the Black Sea Grain Initiative, said UN Spokesperson Florencia Soto Nino. The deal, which allowed major grain exporter Ukraine to resume exports from ports that had been blocked due to the war, is up for renewal on November 19.

The US and its allies have responded to Russia’s attacks on Ukraine with export controls and other sanctions, making it harder for Russia’s military to access key technologies and resupply with drones, artillery and other weapons.

Chinese officials have largely refrained from public criticism of Russia’s war, although Beijing has avoided direct support of the Russians, such as supplying arms. Biden said that during his meeting Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping they discussed the war and “reaffirmed our shared belief’’ that the use or even the threat of nuclear weapons was “totally unacceptable’’ — a reference to Moscow’s thinly veiled threats to use atomic weapons as its attacks of Ukraine has faltered.

Xi told G-20 leaders the global economy should not be weaponized.

“We must resolutely oppose the attempt to politicise food and energy issues or use them as tools and weapons,’’ he said in translated remarks.

After meeting with Xi, French President Emmanuel Macron said they had called for “respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.’’

In a tweet, Macron said France and China were determined to “put an end to the escalation of the war in Ukraine and deal with its consequences.’’

UK support

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday extended his support for Ukraine at the G20 summit while confirming a long-planned order for warships from BAE Systems .

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime would hear the chorus of global opposition to its actions, Sunak said.

“Russia’s actions put all of us at risk,” he said at the summit in Bali, Indonesia. “As we give the Ukrainian people the support they need, we are also harnessing the breadth and depth of UK expertise to protect ourselves and our allies.” Sunak also announced a 4.2 billion pound ($4.94 billion) contract to BAE Systems to build five ships for the Royal Navy, a government statement said.