G20 negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in India on March 2, 2023.
Delhi – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for approximately ten minutes today on the sidelines of the meeting of foreign ministers of the countries of the G20 group of major world economies in the Indian capital of Delhi. Later, he also commented on China's position and warned that if Beijing provides weapons to Russian aggression in Ukraine, it will pose a serious problem. According to him, other countries also expressed the same concern in Delhi, Reuters wrote.
Blinken's conversation with Lavrov was the first such high-level meeting between representatives of the US and Russia in many months. Relations between Moscow and Washington are very tense, especially because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been going on for more than a year. As expected, the G20 ministers did not reach an agreement on the position on the war in Ukraine today.
Blinken made three points during the meeting, according to an unnamed senior US official. First, that the United States will support Ukraine in the conflict for as long as it takes to end the war. Second, that Russia should reverse its decision to suspend participation in the New START Treaty, which limits the number of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. Third, Russia should immediately release the American Paul Whelan. This former soldier was sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia for alleged involvement in espionage. His family and Washington deny the allegations.
Russian agencies emphasized that the two ministers only talked “on the fly” and that it was neither a negotiation nor an official meeting. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marija Zakharova said Blinken had requested the interview.
The American official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity and declined to describe Lavrov's reaction, according to the AP. Blinken, however, did not get the impression that Russia's behavior would change anytime soon. Lavrov did not mention his meeting with Blinken at the press conference after the ministers' meeting, Reuters writes.
According to Lavrov, Moscow will continue what it is doing in Ukraine. He disputed Western claims about Russia's isolation. “We don't feel isolated. The West has isolated itself and eventually it will,” Lavrov said. He also stated that Russia is open to talks on ending the conflict in Ukraine, but the West is blocking such talks.
“They are calling us to act, but I don't recall a single Western colleague calling on Ukraine to act,” Lavrov said. “They are encouraging Ukraine to continue the war,” he added. Lavrov also mocked US threats against China, writes Reuters. “Our Western colleagues have lost self-control, forgotten decency, put diplomacy aside and turned exclusively to blackmail and threats,” he said.
Lavrov spoke with Blinken for the first time since the summer, when they spoke by phone about the US proposal that Russia fired Whelan and basketball player Brittney Griner. Moscow finally released him in December in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor But. Whelan remains behind bars. The last time the ministers met in person was in Geneva in January 2022.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar later said that G20 foreign ministers had not reached a consensus on the war in Ukraine at today's meeting. He added that the final document will emphasize the need to ensure reliable supply chains for food, fertilizer and energy.
China has joined Russia in refusing to support calls for Russian forces to withdraw from Ukraine. These two countries were the only members of the G20 group that did not support the statement demanding “the complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russia from the territory of Ukraine”, AFP writes.
At the G20 meeting, the Chinese and Russian heads of diplomacy discussed, among other things, Ukraine
China supports all efforts for peace talks on Ukraine and will continue to play a constructive role in these efforts. After meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in Delhi, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Kang said this today, quoted by Reuters.
The head of Chinese diplomacy added that China and Russia will continue to maintain contacts on all levels. According to him, China is willing to maintain peace and prosperity with Russia and the international community.
Despite the war in Ukraine, Beijing maintains close relations with Moscow and has so far been reluctant to condemn the Russian invasion. World statesmen are appealing to China to use its influence on Russia and try to get it to withdraw from Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz repeated this call today in a speech in the Bundestag. At the same time, he praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for opposing the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear rhetoric.