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At G20 meeting, Western ministers criticize Russia over Ukraine

Published 21/02/2024, 10:02
Updated 22/02/2024, 01:51
© Reuters. Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks while Brazil's Finance Minister Fernando Haddad and Brazil's Central Bank President Roberto Campos Neto look on during the meeting of the opening of the G20 sherpa and finance tracks joint session in Bra

By Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) -Western foreign ministers from the G20 group of nations meeting in Brazil on Wednesday attacked Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov listened, diplomats said.

"Russia must be made to pay for its aggression," British Foreign Minister David Cameron told the closed session, according to his office.

The top diplomats from the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, France and Norway made similar remarks on the first day of a two-day meeting.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told reporters that Lavrov calmly replied to Cameron's remarks with "a set of alternative facts" about events in Ukraine.

Lavrov did not speak to reporters. Russia's justification of its "special military operation" in Ukraine, which began two years ago, initially was to "de-Nazify" Ukraine. More recently, Moscow has emphasized that it needs to defend against Western aggression.

The meeting was set to prepare the agenda for a G20 summit in November. At a summit in September, G20 leaders adopted a declaration that avoided condemning Russia for the war in Ukraine but called on all states not to use force to grab territory.

Cameron also noted the death of dissident Alexei Navalny in a Russian prison last week.

Eide said the G20 session in Rio focused mainly on conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

"We have to support Ukraine until it emerges as a free and independent sovereign country without another army on its soil," the Norwegian minister said he told the meeting.

Eide said the ministers who spoke at the meeting agreed with the need for a two-state solution in the Middle East but there was no consensus on how to achieve it.

Brazil, this year's president of the G20, opened the foreign ministers' meeting by blaming the United Nations and other multinational bodies for failing to stop conflicts that are killing innocent people.

Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira called for "profound reform" of global governance as Brazil's top priority this year.

"Multilateral institutions are not adequately equipped to deal with current challenges, as demonstrated by the Security Council's unacceptable paralysis in relation to ongoing conflicts," Vieira said at the meeting.

"This state of inaction results in the loss of innocent lives," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia on his way to the Rio meeting and expressed U.S. support for Brazil's agenda to make global governance more effective.

© Reuters. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting at Marina da Gloria, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

The top U.S. diplomat discussed Israel's war in Gaza with Lula amid a diplomatic spat after the Brazilian leader likened Israel's war to the Nazi genocide during World War Two, a U.S. spokesperson told reporters.

Lula's accusations last week of atrocities by Israel in Gaza triggered a diplomatic crisis with an Israeli reprimand and Brazil recalling its ambassador.

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