NEW DELHI: Amid a diplomatic cold, the United States and Russia meet in New Delhi on Wednesday at the start of a G20 meeting marred by deep divisions over the war in Ukraine.
The head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, who is expected in India that evening, has already warned against meeting his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at the two-day meeting of G20 foreign ministers.
On Saturday, the G20 finance ministers’ meeting had already brought to light the deep differences over Ukraine that had prevented agreement on a joint statement as Moscow and Beijing refused to validate paragraphs mentioning the conflict.
Also speaking from Uzbekistan, where he was visiting on Wednesday, the chief of US diplomacy said he did not plan to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in New Delhi.
In a sign of the frigid climate between Washington and Moscow, Antony Blinken has not found himself in the same room as Sergei Lavrov since a previous G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, last July.
Their last face-to-face meeting dates back to January 2022, a few weeks before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
MM. Blinken and Lavrov have since spoken on the phone, but not to discuss this issue.
The Russian foreign minister arrived in India, a country which has a long-standing friendship with Russia, on Tuesday evening and did not condemn the invasion of Ukraine.
According to a press release from his ministry, Sergey Lavrov will use his participation in the G20 to attack the West.
“The destructive policies of the United States and its allies have already brought the world to the brink of disaster, caused a setback in socio-economic development and significantly worsened the situation of the poorest countries,” the document released on Tuesday said. .
Relations between the US and China are also strained.
They have become particularly angry since the Feb. 4 destruction of a Chinese balloon by a US warplane flying over the United States.
Washington claims it was a spy device, while Beijing portrays the device as a civilian aircraft that deviated from its flight path.
The incident had prompted the chief of American diplomacy to postpone a rare visit to Beijing at the last minute, aimed at defusing tensions with the Chinese rival.
Among the many points of contention between Beijing and Washington is Taiwan, an island of 24 million that China has wanted to link to the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
“Open and direct”
Ten days ago, Antony Blinken and the head of Chinese diplomacy, Wang Yi, spoke in Germany during an exchange described by Washington as “frank and direct”.
Mr Blinken had warned his interlocutor of the “impact and consequences” for China should it turn out to be “materially supporting” Russia in its war in Ukraine or helping it escape Western sanctions – which Beijing denies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also received Moscow’s main ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in Beijing on Wednesday.
India, the organizing country of the G20, has made reducing poverty and financing the effects of global warming a priority of its presidency.
However, their goals are hampered by the consequences of the war in Ukraine on the world economy.
A sensitive issue for India, a key military customer of Moscow, which has increased its imports of Russian oil over the past year.
European Union diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said in New Delhi on Wednesday that India would use this G20 meeting to “make Russia understand that this war must end”.
In September, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin that now is “not the time for war”. Remarks then perceived as criticism of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine.