Gaza, Ukraine loom large as G20 foreign ministers meet

RIO DE JANEIRO  -  Foreign ministers of the G20 group of nations open a two-day meeting Wednesday in Brazil, with a bleak outlook for progress on a thorny agenda of conflicts and crises, from the Gaza and Ukraine wars to grow­ing polarization. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov both headed to Rio de Janeiro for the first high-level G20 meeting of the year.

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi has opted not to attend, sending Execu­tive Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ma Zhaoxu instead.

In a world torn by conflicts and di­visions, Brazil, which took over the rotating G20 presidency from India in December, has voiced hopes for what President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva calls the “forum with the great­est capacity to positively influence the international agenda.” But Lula’s bid to make the G20 a space for find­ing common ground likely took a hit Sunday when the veteran leftist ig­nited a diplomatic firestorm by ac­cusing Israel of “genocide,” compar­ing its military campaign in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust. The com­ments drew outrage in Israel, which declared him “persona non grata,” and could overshadow any bid to de-escalate the conflict via the G20.

“If Lula imagined he was going to propose peace resolutions on Is­rael or Ukraine, that just got swept off the table,” international relations specialist Igor Lucena told AFP.

More than four months after the Gaza war started with Hamas fight­ers’ unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which vows to wipe out the Islamist group in retaliation, there is little sign of progress toward peace. A new UN Security Council resolution on a ceasefire was vetoed Tuesday by the United States. The outlook is simi­larly grim on Russia’s war in Ukraine, which also has G20 members divided. Despite a push by Western countries to condemn President Vladimir Pu­tin’s invasion, the G20’s last summit ended with a watered-down state­ment denouncing the use of force but not explicitly naming Russia, which maintains friendly ties with India and Brazil, among other members. Britain announced Wednesday it was imposing sanctions on six Russian of­ficials over opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death in prison last week, and Foreign Secretary David Cam­eron said he planned to use the Rio meeting to “call out Russia’s aggres­sion” directly to Lavrov.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt