Finance chiefs of the world’s largest economies were unable to agree on a joint statement condemning Russia for its war on Ukraine on Saturday, with China and Russia itself declining to sign.
India, which as chair of the Group of 20 (G20) economies was hosting a meeting in the city of Bengaluru, was reluctant to raise the issue of the war but Western nations insisted they could not back any outcome that did not include a condemnation.
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The lack of consensus among G20 members meant India resorted to issuing a “chair’s summary and outcome document” in which it simply summed up the two days of talks and noted disagreements.
“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy,” it said, citing disruption of supply chains, risks to financial stability and continuing energy and food insecurity.
“There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions,” it said, referring to measures put in place by the United States, European countries and others to punish Russia for the invasion and to starve it of revenues.
The outcome was similar to that of a G20 summit in Bali last November when host Indonesia also issued a final declaration acknowledging differences. The G20, formed more than 20 years ago to tackle economic crises, has increasingly struggled to reach the consensus needed to issue an official end-of-meeting communique.
“Although there was not what we would call a communique, but only an outcome statement, we still think we’ve made some progress in having all the ministers on board,” Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
German finance minister Christian Lindner said China’s refusal to join the declaration was “regrettable”.
US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen earlier said that it was “absolutely necessary” for any statement to condemn Russia. Two delegates told Reuters that Russia and China did not want the G20 platform to be used to discuss political matters.
Russia, a member of the G20 but not of the G7, has referred to its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, and avoids calling it an invasion or war.
India has kept a largely neutral stance, declining to blame Russia for the invasion, seeking a diplomatic solution and sharply boosting its purchases of Russian oil.
China and India were among the nations that abstained on Thursday when UN voted overwhelmingly to demand Moscow withdraw its troops from Ukraine and stop fighting.
Besides the G7 nations, the G20 bloc also includes countries such as Australia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
“It’s becoming difficult for the G20 to engage in constructive discussion because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is an act that shakes the foundations of the global order,” Japanese finance minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters.
On the sidelines, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held a meeting on Saturday with the World Bank, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the G7 on restructuring debt for distressed economies, but there, too, were disagreements among members, said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.
“We just finished a session in which it was clear that there is a commitment to bridge differences for the benefit of countries,” Georgieva, who co-chaired the roundtable with Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, told reporters.
One delegate told Reuters that some initial progress was made, mostly on the language around the issue, but restructuring was not discussed in detail.
Yellen said there were no “deliverables” from the meeting, which was mostly organisational.
Further discussions are planned around the time of the IMF and World Bank meetings in April.
Pressure has been building on China, the world’s largest bilateral creditor, and other nations to take a large haircut in loans given to struggling developing nations.
In a video address to the G20 meeting on Friday, Chinese finance minister Liu Kun reiterated Beijing’s position that the World Bank and other multilateral development banks should also participate in debt relief by taking haircuts.
India’s push for tougher regulation of private cryptocurrency assets won wider support at the meeting.
Georgieva said policymakers “should not take off the table” the option of outright bans if regulation failed. Yellen did not back such bans, but said it was critical to put in place a strong regulatory framework.