Chris Barrett and Karuni Rompies, Singapore/Jakarta – Indonesia is being urged from within to invite Ukraine to this year's G20 in Bali to appease Western nations demanding the exclusion of Vladimir Putin from the summit over Russia's invasion of its neighbour.
United States President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have led the opposition to Putin's attendance at the gathering of world leaders on the Indonesian holiday island in November. In Washington DC on Wednesday, US, British and Canadian officials staged a walkout at a G20 finance ministers meeting to protest against the presence of Russia's delegates.
Indonesia, which holds the G20 presidency this year, has resisted calls to tear up Russia's invitation to Bali, insisting the cooperation of all member nations is needed to address global economic issues including those arising from Putin's war.
But former Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa believes the summit must be used as an arena to push for peace in eastern Europe and that Ukraine, which is not a G20 member, should also be invited.
"As chair of G20, it is incumbent for Indonesia to persuasively make the case why the forthcoming summit in Bali provides a precious opportunity to place diplomacy at the forefront in bringing the conflict in Ukraine to an end and to overcome its economic repercussions," said Natalegawa, who was foreign minister during the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
"Essentially, therefore, all G20 members [should agree] to attend and be part of the solution. However, to enhance the likelihood of progress and as a matter of principle, such efforts require the inclusion of Ukraine in the talks.
"For those reasons, in my view, it is right that Ukraine be invited. However, there's also a corresponding reason for all G20 leaders to attend to exercise leadership in bringing the conflict to an end."
Biden has also made it clear he wants Ukraine represented in Bali but foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said a decision would not be made until consultations had been finalised with other members.
Indonesia Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi has been in Europe this week sounding out G20 counterparts on the involvement of Russia and Ukraine.
Russia's ambassador to Indonesia, Lyudmila Vorobieva, suggested there was no point inviting Ukraine to the summit.
"What for? Will it help resolve the economy and the crisis?" she was quoted as saying by Indonesia's Tempo newspaper. "Is there any added value if [we] discuss issues that are unrelated to the G20 agenda?"
A press release issued by Indonesia on Thursday after the meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington DC said Jakarta had "an obligation to invite all G20 members to attend the meetings and have effective discussions and find solutions".
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg did not attend because the Morrison government is in caretaker mode before next month's election but the delegations of other Western countries used the occasion to denounce the Russian war.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Canada Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland walked out as Russian delegates were addressing the forum.
"Secretary Yellen firmly condemned Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine and emphasised there will be no business-as-usual for Russia in the global economy," the US Treasury said.
Sunak, meanwhile, said on Twitter after the meeting: "We are united in our condemnation of Russia's war against Ukraine and will push for stronger international coordination to punish Russia".
The US, however, indicated it would not abandon Indonesia in its G20 economic pursuits "including addressing the negative impacts of Russia's invasion on the global economy".
Indonesia Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who chaired the meeting, said she was confident the walkouts would "would not erode cooperation or the importance of the G20 forum".
"This is an extraordinary situation," Indrawati said. "It's not business as usual, a very dynamic and challenging one. In order for us to be able to recover together... we need more and even stronger cooperation. The G20 is still... the premier forum for all of us to be able to discuss and talk about all the issues."
Russia's finance ministry did not mention the walkout in a statement issued after the meeting. It called on the G20 not to politicise dialogue between members and stressed the grouping had always focused on the economy.
– with Reuters