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G20 summit wraps up in New Delhi; Modi calls for a virtual meet in November

September 10, 2023 at 11:37 am

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) hands over the gavel to Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) during the third working session of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi on September 10, 2023 [PIB/AFP via Getty Images]

The G20 summit in New Delhi ended on Sunday as India handed over the bloc presidency to Brazil, while both the US and Russia praised a consensus that did not condemn Moscow for the war in Ukraine but called on members to shun the use of force.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the group’s leaders to hold a virtual meeting in November to review progress on policy suggestions and goals announced at the weekend.

“It is our responsibility to look at the suggestions that have been made to see how progress can be accelerated,” he said in a statement.

On Saturday, the group adopted a Leaders’ Declaration that avoided condemning Russia for the war but highlighted the human suffering the conflict had caused and called on all states not to use force to grab territory.

The consensus came as a surprise. In the weeks leading to the summit, sharply differing views on the war had threatened to derail the meeting with Western nations demanding members call out Moscow for the invasion and Russia saying it would block any resolution that did not reflect its position.

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Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the head of the Russian delegation, said the summit was a success for India as well as the Global South, the world’s developing countries.

The Global South’s position in the talks helped prevent the G20 agenda from being overshadowed by Ukraine, he told a press conference. “India has truly consolidated G20 members from the Global South.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters the summit declaration “does a very good job of standing up for the principle that states cannot use force to seek territorial acquisition or to violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of other states”.

Germany and Britain have also praised the resolution, but Ukraine said “it was nothing to be proud of”.

Walked Barefoot

The summit also admitted the African Union, which includes 55 member states, as a permanent member of the G20, underlining the bloc’s representation of the Global South.

Lavrov also said Russia would return to the Black Sea deal that lets Ukraine export grain if Russia’s demands were met. Moscow pulled out of the agreement in July over what it called a failure to meet its demands to implement a parallel agreement easing rules for its own food and fertiliser export.

The summit document had called for the safe flow of grain, food and fertiliser from both Ukraine and Russia.

On Sunday, the leaders, including US President Joe Biden, German Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japan’s Fumio Kishida, visited the memorial of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi.

Most of the leaders were barefoot as they walked to the site where Gandhi was cremated following his assassination in 1948 by a Hindu extremist.

Biden later left for Vietnam, missing the last session of the summit. The White House said it was not aware of him having any talks with Lavrov or Chinese Premier Li Qiang, who led their country’s delegations at the summit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin both skipped the summit.

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“This was one of the most difficult G20 summits in the almost twenty-year history of the forum … it took almost 20 days to agree on the declaration before the summit and five days here on the spot,” Svetlana Lukash, the Russian G20 government negotiator, was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Interfax.

“This was not only due to some disagreements on the Ukraine subject, but also due to differences in positions on all key issues, primarily the issues of climate change and the transition to low-carbon energy systems…”

A European Union official, who did not want to be identified, said on Sunday the Ukraine war was the most contentious issue in the negotiations.

“Without India’s leadership it would not have been possible,” the official said, adding that Brazil and South Africa also played a crucial role in bridging differences.

Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has left tens of thousands dead, displaced millions and sown economic turmoil across the world. Moscow, which says it is conducting a “special military operation” there, denies committing any atrocities.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.