G20 talks overshadowed by Ukraine war as host Indonesia seeks consensus

·3-min read
G20 finance ministers, central bankers and senior officials meet in Bali

By Fransiska Nangoy and Stefanno Sulaiman

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - G20 finance leaders meeting in Bali must make progress tackling the global economic threats sparked by Russia's war in Ukraine or the humanitarian consequences would be catastrophic, host Indonesia said on Friday.

Some Western ministers blasted Russian officials attending the talks, with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen saying Russia's "brutal and unjust war" was solely responsible for the economic crisis the world now faces.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin calls a "special military operation", has overshadowed recent G20 meetings, including last week's gathering of foreign ministers.

Host Indonesia's Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the world had high hopes the G20 could find a solution to the threat of war, rising commodity prices and the spillover effects on the ability of low-income countries to repay debt.

"We are acutely aware that the cost of our failure to work together is more than we can afford. The humanitarian consequences for the world, and especially for many low-income countries would be catastrophic," she said.

G20 members include Western countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia and accuse it of war crimes in Ukraine - which Moscow denies - as well as nations like China, India and South Africa, which have been more muted in their response.

Sri Mulyani urged members to "build bridges between each other" to deliver more technical decisions and concrete action.

She also called for a joint forum involving G20 finance and agriculture ministries to come up with concrete action to tackle growing food insecurity and a looming fertilizer supply crisis.

Indonesia's G20 deputy for finance, Wempi Saputra, told Reuters Friday's discussions were productive and members did not walk out during Russia's address as they have done previously.

Russian Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov addressed the meeting in person, while Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was participating virtually, a source familiar with the matter said.

"It's no secret that there were very frank statements being made (in the meeting), yet what matters is we are at the moment of enormous distress and disruption in our global economy as well as our geopolitical context," Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, who attended one of the sessions, told Reuters.

Wempi said the group is still discussing the possibility of issuing a communique for this meeting.

But Western countries have repeatedly said G20 meetings cannot be "business as usual" due to Russia's presence.

Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told Russian officials that she held them personally responsible for "war crimes" committed during Russia's war, a Western official told Reuters.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov walked out of one session of a G20 meeting with his counterparts in Bali last week, following what he called "frenzied criticism" of his country over the war. That meeting ended without a communique or any announcements of agreements.

EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni via video-link said the global economy faces a "major setback" because of the war.

"Most of the key risks to the global outlook – increasing commodity prices, food shortages and prolonged supply chain disruptions – are dependent on the evolution of the war started by Russia."

Yellen said one of her key objectives was to push G20 creditors, including China, to finalise debt relief for countries in debt distress.

(Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Stefanno Sulaiman, Andrea Shalal, Zahra Matarani in Nusa Dua, additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Editing by Martin Petty, Ed Davies, Michael Perry and Kanupriya Kapoor)

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