Divided G20 blocked by 'impasse' over Ukraine, Gaza

Divided G20 blocked by 'impasse' over Ukraine, Gaza

Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad speaks during the G20 finance ministers meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad speaks during the G20 finance ministers meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Nelson ALMEIDA / AFP
Source: AFP

The first G20 finance ministers' meeting of the year ended Thursday without a joint statement due to deep divisions over the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, officials said.

Host country Brazil has an ambitious agenda to use the rotating G20 presidency to amplify the voice of the global south and tackle inequality and climate change.

But that was overshadowed by what it called an "impasse" at the two-day meeting in Sao Paulo.

"It isn't possible (to reach) a final statement," Finance Minister Fernando Haddad told a news conference.

"The impasse, as usual, is over the ongoing conflicts," he said, without explicitly mentioning Russia's invasion of Ukraine or Israel's military campaign against Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"We had nurtured the hope that more sensitive geopolitical issues could be debated exclusively" by the group's foreign ministers, who held a meeting in Rio de Janeiro last week that likewise failed to produce a joint statement.

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Haddad said that on financial issues, the G20 group -- which represents 80 percent of the global economy -- was unified.

"But since the meeting last week in Rio de Janeiro didn't reach a joint statement, that ended up contaminating the establishment of consensus" at what Brazil had hoped would be a purely economic policy meeting, he said.

No 'business as usual'

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner had earlier said his country planned to insist any final statement address Russia's two-year-old war in Ukraine.

The war has split the G20, with Western countries condemning the invasion and pouring military and financial aid into Ukraine.

Russia -- also a G20 member -- has meanwhile courted support from fellow emerging powers such as Brazil, China and India.

The group is also divided over Gaza, with the United States and Western allies reluctant to condemn Israel, even as non-Western members grow increasingly critical of a spiraling humanitarian crisis there.

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"We can't have business as usual at the G20 when there's a war in Ukraine, Hamas terrorism and the humanitarian situation in Gaza," Lindner told journalists.

"We oppose avoiding those issues. Even if we're central bankers and finance ministers, we represent the values of our countries and must defend the international rules-based order."

The meetings are meant to lay the groundwork for the annual G20 leaders' summit, to be held in Rio in November.

Despite a push from Western countries for the group to condemn President Vladimir Putin's invasion, the G20's last summit, held in New Delhi in September, ended with a watered-down statement that denounced the use of force but did not explicitly name Russia.

The divisions do not look to have abated.

"Obviously, we want to name Russia as the aggressor, and Ukraine as the victim," a French official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Taxing the super-rich

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On the global economy, the group voiced cautious optimism for a "soft landing" from the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, in an unsigned "Chair's Summary" released by Brazil in lieu of a joint statement.

But "uncertainty remains high," it warned.

"The global economy continues to face multiple challenges that reinforce each other and whose solutions require renewed multilateral cooperation. Among those are conflicts in many regions of the world; geoeconomic tensions; persistent inequalities, poverty, malnutrition and diseases," it said, in the only reference to the ongoing wars.

It also cited "elevated debt vulnerabilities," "tighter financing conditions," and "challenges imposed by climate change."

"Global growth is projected to stabilize in 2024 and the coming years at a subdued level," it said.

Brazil had sought to push an international plan to ensure the world's super-rich pay what Haddad called their "fair share" of taxes, urging G20 nations to adopt a shared stance on preventing billionaire tax-dodging by July.

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That issue also failed to make it into the "Chair's Summary."

But Haddad, a close ally of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said there was broad backing. "No one spoke against it," he told journalists.

Source: AFP

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