July 15, 2022

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G20 talks overshadowed by Ukraine war as host Indonesia seeks consensus

NUSA DUA, Indonesia — 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 US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen saying Russia’s “brutal and unjust war” was solely responsible for the economic crisis the world now faced. 

Finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies are meeting on the resort island, as host Indonesia tries to find common ground in a group frayed by the Ukraine war and rising economic pressures from soaring inflation. 

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. 

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the world had high hopes the group 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 responses. 

Ms. Sri Mulyani called for G20 members to talk less about politics and “build bridges between each other” to deliver more technical decisions and concrete action. 

Ms. Yellen said Russian finance officials at the meeting shared responsibility for the “horrific consequences” of the war. 

“By starting this war, Russia is solely responsible for negative spillovers to the global economy, particularly higher commodity prices,” Ms. Yellen said. 

Russian Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov was attending the meetings in Bali, while Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was participating virtually at the time, a source familiar with the matter said. 

Mr. Maksimov addressed the gathering and there was no walk out by other leaders, the source said. 

Western countries have repeatedly said there cannot be “business as usual” at the G20 meetings 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. 

Freeland, whose maternal grandparents were born in Ukraine, told the opening G20 session that the war was the “single biggest threat to the global economy right now,” the official said. 

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 nor any announcements of agreements. 

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