G-20 Summit concludes with joint declaration despite rift over Ukraine war

The G-20 Leaders' Declaration was adopted after days of wrangling over the most contentious paragraph regarding the war in Ukraine.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


President Joko “Jokowi“ Widodo attends a working session on energy and food security during the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Nov. 15, 2022.(AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

November 18, 2022

JAKARTA – The Group of 20 Leaders’ Summit drew to a close in Bali on Wednesday with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo thanking leaders of major economies for producing a joint declaration, a feat initially doubted by many amid deep rifts over the war in Ukraine.

“I extend my highest appreciation to all present who provided the flexibility for the declaration to be agreed upon and ratified,” Jokowi said in his closing speech to G20 leaders, noting that the document was the first of its kind since February this year.

“It was an honor for Indonesia to lead the G20 over the past year.”

Multiple “concrete deliverables” had been achieved during the Indonesian presidency, he said, including a host of cooperation projects signed among G20 members, which would ensure that “the G20 is beneficial not only for its members but also for the world, in particular for developing countries.”

The G20 Leaders’ Declaration was adopted on Wednesday afternoon after days of wrangling over the most contentious paragraph regarding the war in Ukraine, Jokowi revealed in a press briefing at the conclusion of the event.

“The most-debated paragraph was just one, namely our stance on the war in Ukraine. Until late at night we discussed this, and, in the end, the Bali Declaration was adopted unanimously,” Jokowi told reporters in the room and online.

“We also had the Russians attending the summit at the time. So, even though the debate was heated, everyone has agreed and the Bali Declaration has been announced,” Jokowi added.

Russia’s objection to any condemnation of the war and China’s support for Moscow had given rise to concerns earlier that the Bali gathering could be the first G20 summit to fail to produce a joint statement, as Western leaders sought to rally support for Kyiv and condemn Moscow.

The declaration released by officials on Wednesday said that members “reiterated our national positions” and “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.”

The document quoted a United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted in March by majority vote that “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.”

“The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war,” the draft statement said.

The language of the statement echoed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words to Russian President Vladimir Putin in September that this was “not an era of war”.

The document also notes there were “other views” and that the “G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues”, but members acknowledged that security issues could “have significant consequences for the global economy”.

The second and final day of the Group of 20 Summit began on Wednesday with changes in the schedule as G20 heads of state representing Group of Seven and NATO members called an “emergency meeting” in response to overnight reports that a Russian-made missile had killed two people in Poland, near the border with Ukraine.

Leaders participating in the meeting included those from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union, along with the president of the European Council and the prime ministers of NATO allies Spain and the Netherlands.

NATO later in the day said the deadly explosion was probably the result of a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile.

The meeting delayed by more than an hour a scheduled mangrove-planting exercise on Wednesday morning that had G20 leaders use spades to plant seedlings of the threatened trees not far from the summit location.

There was some speculation that the excursion was a way to avoid a potentially awkward moment that may have seen Western leaders refuse to join the customary “family photo” with Russia’s representative.

Asked about the missile that came down in Poland, Jokowi addressed the press in English to “call on all parties to remain calm and refrain from escalating tension. I always state that war will only bring devastation. Therefore, we must stop the war. And [US] President [Joe] Biden himself has already said that the missile is unlikely to have come from Russia.”

Former Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda has praised Jokowi’s leadership as “commendable” and deemed the G20 presidency a successful and productive one at a most challenging time.

“People were very skeptical whether or not this summit, under our chairmanship, would be able to produce a leaders’ declaration,” Hassan said during a discussion of the summit on The Jakarta Post’s livestream on Wednesday.

Hassan furthermore stressed the “importance of coordination with the upcoming chair” as Jokowi officially handed over the G20 presidency to India.

“If what was discussed and agreed is not followed up, then people might say, ‘oh, the G20 is dysfunctional.’ We have to prove, we have proven, it is functional and continues to be functional,” said Hassan, who served as minister from 2001 to 2009.

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