Ukraine war set to dominate G20 meeting in India
Russia's invasion of Ukraine was set to dominate Thursday's meeting of the world's top diplomats in New Delhi, with hosts India labouring to avoid the discord that ended its last G20 meeting.
The gathering will see US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the same room for the first time since July but the two men were unlikely to hold talks.
Western delegates fear China is considering supplying arms to its Russian ally and they will use the foreign ministers' summit to discourage Beijing from intervening in the conflict.
India's longstanding security ties with Russia have put the host of Thursday's meeting in an awkward diplomatic position after refusing to condemn the invasion over the past year.
But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was confident India would use the meeting to "make Russia understand that this war has to finish".
"Certainly the success of the meeting today will be measured in respect to what we will be able to do on that," he told reporters on Wednesday.
Borrell will meet on the sidelines of the New Delhi summit with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang where he will seek assurances that Beijing will not lend support to Russia's war effort.
"Until now the answer has been clearly stated by China, 'it hasnt happened and it won't happen,' but we have to remain vigilant," said a senior EU official with knowledge of the matter.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua last week quoted top diplomat Wang Yi as saying Beijing was willing to "strengthen strategic coordination" with Russia after meeting Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
- 'Zero evidence' -
Blinken said he had no plans to meet with either the Russian or Chinese foreign ministers at the G20 summit.
The last time Blinken and Lavrov were in the same room, at a G20 meeting in Bali last July, the latter stormed out according to Western officials.
"If Russia -- President Putin -- were genuinely prepared to engage in meaningful diplomacy necessary to end the aggression, of course we'd be the first to work to engage, but there's zero evidence of that," Blinken said.
Blinken had a fiery encounter with Wang last month in Germany after the United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over its east coast on February 4.
Lavrov intends to use his G20 attendance to lambast Western countries over the conflict, according to a Russian foreign ministry statement.
Western nations want to "take revenge for the inevitable disappearance of the levers of dominance from its hands", the ministry said Tuesday.
"The destructive policy of the US and its allies has already put the world on the brink of a disaster," it added.
India had wanted its G20 presidency this year to focus on issues such as alleviating poverty and climate finance, but the Ukraine war has so far crowded out other agenda items.
A meeting of G20 finance ministers in Bengaluru last week failed to agree on a common statement after Russia and China sought to water down language on the war.
Hosting the G20 puts India in a tricky position, because while it shares Western concerns about China, it is also a major buyer of Russian arms and has ramped up Russian oil imports.
India has not condemned the Ukraine invasion, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Putin last year that this was "not a time for war" in comments seen as a rebuke to Moscow.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russia was trying with its "cynical games... to drive a wedge in the international community."
"Last week, a year since the start of the Russian offensive, a large majority of nations at the UN general assembly called out this brutal war for what it is," she said in a statement.