G20 Adopts Softer Statement than Bali Declaration
New Delhi. The Group of 20 top world economies welcomed the African Union as a member at their annual summit Saturday, but their wording on the contentious issue of Russia's war in Ukraine was limited to a call to avoid forcefully seizing territory or using nuclear weapons.
There had been doubt that an agreement could be adopted because of disagreements among members, most centrally on differences about the war.
The G20 final statement, released a day before the summit formally closes, was less sharply worded over the war than one issued during last year's meeting in Bali and didn't mention Russia's invasion directly.
It said members reiterated their national positions and resolutions adopted at the United Nations and called on all states must act in line with principles laid out in the UN Charter.
“In line with the UN Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible,” it said.
There was widespread support for adding the AU to the G20, making it the second regional bloc to become a permanent member after the European Union and adding momentum to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's drive to give a greater voice to the Global South.
The continent was thrust into the spotlight as well by the earthquake in Morocco, which happened while most of the delegates gathered in New Delhi were asleep. Modi offered condolences and support in his opening remarks.
“The entire world community is with Morocco in this difficult time and we are ready to provide them all possible assistance," he said.
He told leaders they must find “concrete solutions” to the widespread challenges that he said stemmed from the “ups and downs in the global economy, the north and the south divide, the chasm between the east and the west,” and other issues like terrorism, cybersecurity, health and water security.
Modi addressed the delegates from behind a nameplate that listed his country not as India but as “Bharat,” an ancient Sanskrit name championed by his Hindu nationalist supporters.
With much of the world’s focus on Russia's war in Ukraine, India wanted to direct more attention to addressing the needs of the developing world at the summit -- though it's impossible to decouple many issues, such as food and energy security, from the European conflict.
Despite months of objections from Russia and China over language referring to the war in Ukraine, the leaders were able to agree unanimously, according to Indian officials, to several paragraphs referring to the conflict.
The language was weaker than that of last year’s G20 summit in Bali, however, which quoted a U.N. resolution deploring “in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.”
The Bali declaration said further that: ”most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.”
While the New Delhi statement “recalled” the statement in Bali and the UN resolution, it didn't quote the strong language from them.
More than a fifth of G20 heads weren't in New Delhi as the summit opened. The leaders of Russia and China opted not to come, ensuring no tough face-to-face conversations with their American and European counterparts. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez canceled his attendance after testing positive for COVID-19, and Mexico’s president decided to miss it, too. French President Emmanuel Macron arrived late, missing morning meetings after staying in Paris to watch the opening of the Rugby World Cup.
A series of preparatory meetings leading up to the summit failed to produce agreements, largely due to differences over Ukraine. Ending the weekend without such a statement would have tarnished the image Modi has tried to cultivate of India as a global problem solver.