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G20 finance chiefs fail to evolve consensus on Ukraine war

Differences among finance leaders of the world’s biggest economies over the Ukraine war and resolving the debt burden of distressed developing nations came to the fore on Saturday.

Hosted by India in Bengaluru, the meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs of the Group of 20 (G20), was likely to conclude later in the day without a joint communique, as there was no consensus on the Ukraine issue, delegates said.

The United States and its allies in the Group of Seven (G7) industrial powers were firm on their stand in demanding the communique squarely condemning Russia for the invasion of its neighbour, a move opposed by the Russian and Chinese delegations, they said.

Also read: G20 nations must address challenges confronting global economy: RBI Governor

G7 firm on stand

“I think there has to be a statement in the communique condemning Russia’s war,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told news agency Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting. “It’s something that I think is absolutely necessary. And I think the G7 is certainly united on that, so it’s something that I would expect and I think is necessary and appropriate,” she said in an interview.

Russia, a member of the G20 but not the G7, refers to its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, and avoids calling it an invasion or war.

India is pressing the meeting to avoid using the word “war” in any communique, G20 officials have told Reuters. India, which holds this year’s G20 presidency, has maintained a largely neutral stance on the war. India and China were among the nations that abstained on Thursday when UN voted overwhelmingly to demand Moscow withdraw its troops from Ukraine and stop fighting.

A senior G20 source said negotiations over the communique were difficult, with Russia and China blocking proposals by Western countries. The source and several other officials said barring a last-minute surprise, a consensus on the communique was unlikely and that the meeting was likely to end with a statement by the host summarising the discussions.

Also read: Nirmala Sitharaman meets US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen ahead of G20 meet

Debt negotiations

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) held a meeting on the sidelines with the World Bank, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the G7 on restructuring debt for distressed economies, but there were disagreements among members, said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

“We just finished a session in which it was clear that there is a commitment to bridge differences for the benefit of countries,” Georgieva, who co-chaired the roundtable with Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, told reporters.

Further discussions of the panel are planned around the time of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in April. Pressure has been building on China, the world’s largest bilateral creditor, and other nations to take a large haircut in loans given to struggling developing nations like Zambia and Sri Lanka.

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