Indonesia’s Widodo calls on G20 to work to ‘end the war’

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has opened the G20 summit in Bali with a call for the world to “end the war” and bridge “wide differences” amid rifts over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has fuelled geopolitical tension and caused a global surge in food and energy prices.

Telling delegates that it was an honour for Indonesia to host the event, Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, on Tuesday acknowledged the mood.

“I understand we need huge efforts to be able to sit together in this room,” he said before closed-door discussions began.

The Indonesian president said the world could not afford to fall into another cold war and said G20 members must work to “end the war”, in an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine.

“Being responsible means creating not zero-sum situations, being responsible here also means that we must end the war. If the war does not end, it will be difficult for the world to move forward,” he told leaders ahead of the summit’s opening session.

The G20 groups together 19 countries and the European Union representing the world’s 20 largest economies, including Russia. It accounts for more than 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, and 60 percent of its population.

Indonesia has sought to be a bridge-builder and the summit is the first since Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine on February 24. Jokowi has visited Kyiv and Moscow, extending an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin despite calls within the G20 that Russia be barred.

Putin declined and is being represented in Bali by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Uncertainty over communique

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, addressed the summit by video link on Tuesday. On the eve of the summit opening, he pointedly referred to the “G19 summit” and in his speech later called for peace.

“I am convinced now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped,” he told the G20 leaders, according to a speech in Ukrainian obtained by the AFP news agency. “It will save thousands of lives.”

Officials from US and European countries are pushing for a joint G20 declaration that would condemn the eight-month-old invasion and threats to use nuclear weapons.

“I think you’re going to see most members of the G20 make clear that they condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine,” a senior US official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Russia’s war of aggression is being condemned in the strongest possible terms,” the official said, adding that many “see Russia’s war in Ukraine as the root source of immense economic and humanitarian suffering in the world.”

But it remains unclear whether all G20 countries would sign up to language that would condemn Putin’s war so explicitly.

Diplomatic sources told the Reuters news agency that given the difficulty of agreeing a joint communique, which would need to be agreed by all parties, Indonesia was instead pushing for a leaders’ declaration.

The US and its allies hope to find common cause with countries that while cautious about condemning Russia are also concerned about the economic impact of a protracted war, as people around the world are struggling with soaring prices and several nations are heading towards recession.

Argentina and Turkey are among the countries worst hit by food inflation, while India and South Africa have avoided criticism of Russia’s invasion.

China, represented by President Xi Jinping, has also avoided chastising Moscow over the war, although it has called regularly for peace.

The conflict formed part of the first face-to-face discussions between Xi and US President Joe Biden.

Described as “candid” the talks took place in Bali on Monday and extended over three hours.

The White House said the two leaders “reiterated their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won”. They also “underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine”.

The Chinese readout said Xi told Biden that China was “highly concerned about the current situation in Ukraine”.

“China has all along stood on the side of peace and will continue to encourage peace talks. We support and look forward to a resumption of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. At the same time, we hope that the United States, NATO and the EU will conduct comprehensive dialogues with Russia,” it said.

Xi, on only his second overseas trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, has also held bilateral meetings with other G20 leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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