Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, has said he would not chase after the United States for talks as his counterpart, Antony Blinken, declined to see him at a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali.
Top world diplomats and envoys gathered this week for the meeting of the foreign ministers of the G20, which was set up as a club of the world’s major economies. As the summit, which put some of the staunchest critics of Russia’s invasion in the same room as Moscow’s top diplomat, opened on Thursday, host country Indonesia told participants the Ukraine war must end and differences resolved through negotiations.
The United States has sought to isolate Russia on the world stage and aides to Blinken said they saw no point in speaking to Lavrov so long as Moscow continues its war in Ukraine, now in its fifth month.
Lavrov, while saluting Indonesia, denounced the approach of Western nations at the G20.
“It was not us who abandoned contact; it was the United States,” Lavrov told reporters on Friday. “We are not running after anybody suggesting meetings.”
The foreign minister dismissed what he cast as the West’s “frenzied” criticism of the war in Ukraine, scolding Russia’s rivals for scuppering a chance to tackle global economic issues.
“During the discussion, Western partners avoided following the mandate of the G20, from dealing with issues of the world economy,” Lavrov said.
He said the West’s discussion “strayed almost immediately, as soon as they took the floor, to the frenzied criticism of the Russian Federation in connection with the situation in Ukraine. ‘Aggressors’, ‘invaders’, ‘occupiers’ – we heard a lot of things today,” Lavrov said.
“Everyone is telling us to put an end to the operation and reach a peaceful solution.”
But, he added: “Despite the behaviour of our Western colleagues, this is a useful discussion.”
Indonesia urged the G20 to help end the war in Ukraine, as foreign ministers from the group met for the summit.
Lavrov added that Russia was ready to negotiate with Ukraine and Turkey about grain but it is unclear when such talks might take place.
Blinken and Lavrov joined their colleagues for the start of day-long talks, with Washington seeking to gain international support to pressure Moscow over the invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
“It clearly cannot be business as usual when it comes to Russia’s involvement and engagement in enterprises like the G20,” a senior US official said ahead of the meeting.
In comments to open the meeting on the resort island of Bali, Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi directly addressed the war.
“It is our responsibility to end the war sooner than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not the battlefield,” Marsudi said, with Lavrov in the room.
While in Bali, Blinken will also seek to reopen dialogue with Beijing in talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, the first in months after tensions strained over issues including Taiwan.
The G20 meeting is looking to tackle the war’s effect on food and energy security, as well as the global economy’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the ravages of climate change.
But there will be no family photo of the G20 ministers as is customary, an Indonesian government official told AFP.
Friday’s meeting is a prelude to the leaders’ summit on Bali in November that is meant to focus on the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.