G-20 Hails Compromise on War Wording That Angers Ukraine

(Bloomberg) -- Group of 20 leaders agreed on a joint statement including compromise language on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that won praise from the US and its allies but drew bitter criticism from Kyiv.

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The phrasing was hammered out in eleventh-hour negotiations and largely repeated the references used in last year’s text. But efforts by the US and its allies to toughen criticism of Russia’s invasion ran into fierce opposition from Moscow — and for a time — China. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping both skipped the New Delhi summit.

Seeking to prevent a diplomatic failure for India, this year’s G-20 host and a key partner, the US and its allies agreed to language that focused on points that enjoyed unanimous support from the group’s members, leaving out some phrasing from last year’s statement describing their opposition to the war that was more critical of Russia.

US and European diplomats hailed the compromise as tough on Moscow, highlighting the importance of the broad support for key points. But Ukraine was disappointed in the outcome of a meeting that left out President Volodomyr Zelenskiy, who virtually addressed last year’s G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

“Nothing to be proud of,” Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman at the Foreign Ministry, said in a Facebook post. While he said Kyiv was grateful to allies who tried to include stronger wording, he said Ukraine wanted to see explicit reference to “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”

The latest text removed a reference to “the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine” used last year when citing a UN resolution. While this year’s statement mentioned the resolution, it didn’t quote from it directly.

The agreed text allowed India to claim a diplomatic success from the meeting, a key showcase for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“This is a complete statement with 100% unanimity,” said Amitabh Kant, India’s top G-20 negotiator. “This demonstrates both the prime minister’s and India’s great ability to bring all developing countries, all emerging markets, all developed countries, China, Russia, everybody together on the same table and bring consensus.”

The US and other Group of Seven nations also praised the outcome, rejecting assertions that it watered down support for Ukraine.

“This is good and is a success because for a long time, it wasn’t apparent that we would get this far,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters.

Russia’s chief negotiator, Svetlana Lukash, also praised the agreed text on Ukraine as “balanced,” the result of “very difficult” negotiations, according to a video from state news agency Tass.

The main difference in the text agreed to this year is the removal of most phrasing that expressed divergent opinions over issues such as sanctions and direct condemnation of Russia’s war, replacing it with unanimously supported views backed up with references to United Nations principles.

The line in last year’s text that said “most members strongly condemned the war” isn’t repeated in this year’s draft, which instead highlights areas of agreement including the tenets of the UN Charter against using force and in favor of territorial integrity. Unlike last year’s text, it also left out the controversial issue of sanctions, on which the members couldn’t agree.

Allies of Ukraine highlighted a part of the new text that welcomes efforts to reach a “comprehensive, just and durable peace in Ukraine.” The final statement again referred to Russia’s war “in Ukraine,” rather than the war “against Ukraine,” phrasing that the US and its allies had sought and Moscow opposed.

This year’s version also includes “today’s era must not be of war” — a phrase Modi has frequently repeated since the invasion.

Disagreements over the phrasing had threatened to derail efforts to produce an agreed communique. Diplomats worked nearly around the clock in recent days to hammer out the text. Host country India had pushed to ensure a deal was reached, participants said.

The Ukraine references are a relatively small part of the document, which covers issues from the global economic outlook to climate change.

The text warns that “cascading crises” have posed challenges to long-term economic growth and calls for coordinated macroeconomic policies to support the world economy. It warns that uncertainty on the economic outlook remains high and the balance of risks is tilted to the downside.

The G-20 agreed on measures to expand lending by multilateral institutions like the World Bank. Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the steps could yield as much as $200 billion in extra funding over a decade.

China dropped initial resistance to language on climate change, diplomats said.

The final text also mentions US plans to host the G-20 summit in 2026, something that Beijing had initially questioned.

--With assistance from Kateryna Choursina and Samy Adghirni.

(Updates with German, Russian reaction from tenth paragraph)

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