Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has flown into Indonesia’s resort island of Bali for a meeting of foreign ministers of countries from the Group of 20 (G20), which is set to be overshadowed by tensions triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The summit will see the first face-to-face meeting between Russia’s top diplomat and some of its biggest critics since the war began on February 24. The G20 includes Western countries that have accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine and imposed sanctions, but also countries such as China, Indonesia, India and South Africa that have been more muted in their response.
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On Thursday, there was tight security in Bali’s Nusa Dua area, where the summit is being held, as foreign diplomats descended on the island for the meeting. Lavrov was pictured holding a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“We are seeing a lot of bilateral meetings … on the sidelines; one-on-one meetings between foreign ministers,” said Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Bali.
“Sometimes small groupings of like-minded countries. It’s on Friday that we will see the larger meetings,” he added.
Speaking before her arrival, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russia must not be allowed to use the G20 meeting as a platform given its war in Ukraine.
“It is in the interest of us all to ensure that international law is respected and adhered to. That is the common denominator,” Baerbock said in a statement.
Lavrov had planned to meet some G20 counterparts on the sidelines of the summit, Russian news agency TASS reported, but ministers including Baerbock and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken have ruled out meeting Lavrov.
Some officials from Europe and the US have stressed the Bali summit would not be “business as a usual”, with a spokesperson for the German foreign minister saying countries belonging to the Group of Seven (G7) would coordinate their response to Lavrov in Bali.
Top officials from the United Kingdom, Canada and the US walked out on Russian representatives during a G20 finance meeting in Washington, DC in April.
Despite early talk of boycotting subsequent G20 meetings, analysts say Western nations appear to have decided it would be counterproductive to cede the floor to Russia.
Discussions on energy and food security are on the agenda in the two-day meeting, with Russia accused of stoking a global food crisis and worsening inflation by blockading shipments of Ukrainian grain. Russia has said it is ready to facilitate unhindered exports of grain.