Blinken, Lavrov make ‘contact’ on the sidelines of G-20 Foreign Ministers meeting

Blinken, Lavrov make ‘contact’ on the sidelines of G-20 Foreign Ministers meeting

This was the first meeting between the top U.S. and Russian diplomats since the Ukraine war began last year; U.S. State Secretary says he raised the war and Russia’s withdrawal from New START with Lavrov; Russia says there was no ‘full fledged meeting’ and that the U.S. asked for the contact

Aside from their differences over the Ukraine war, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also differed over the nature of a “brief” encounter the two leaders held in Delhi on the sidelines of the G-20 Foreign Ministers Meeting on Thursday.

While Mr. Blinken said that he had raised substantial points on the war and other issues with Mr. Lavrov during a meeting at the Rastrapati Bhawan Cultural Centre where the FMM was organised and chaired by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. However, when asked, Mr. Lavrov dismissed any meeting as a “corridor conversation” and the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was simply a “contact” between the two leaders that had been requested by Mr. Blinken.

“I spoke briefly with Lavrov today. I urged him to return to negotiate the START treaty. I raised the wrongful detention of American prisoner Paul Whelan in Russia. And I asked him to end the war in Ukraine,” Mr. Blinken told journalists at a press conference in New Delhi. Paul Whelan is a former U.S. Marine who was convicted in June 2020 on espionage charges in Moscow.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson had a different account. “U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked for contact with Foreign Minister Lavrov. During the second session of G-20 meet, they had contact. There were no talks or full fledged meeting,” Russian spokesperson Maria Zakharova said here.

In back to back conferences, the U.S. and Russian Foreign Ministers trained sharp comments at each other, blaming Moscow and Washington respectively for the impasse in the Ukraine war one year after it began.

When asked about the democratic backslide in India, Mr. Blinken answered that India and the U.S. are two democracies and they have to hold themselves accountable to the core values of democracy. “We regularly engage with our Indian counterparts on the issue, as I did with Jaishankar today,” the U.S. Secretary of State said when asked about a “democratic downslide” in India. Talking about the restrictions been placed on U.S. NGOs in India, he said, “When it comes to restrictions on NGOs, we raise with our Indian counterparts the necessity of allowing all NGOs to do their work without restrictions, and this comes up in our conversations regularly.”

Issuing a stern warning to China, Mr. Blinken said that if China were to assist Russia militarily or subvert sanctions imposed on Russia, it would be a serious problem and ‘there would be consequences’.

Replying to a question from The Hindu on the future of G-20, he said that as long as there’s a consensus that includes all the members of the G-20 minus two, the process can still go ahead, even if there is no joint communique at the leaders’ summit in September.

Mr. Lavrov was isolated during a similar G-20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali last July where Russia faced criticism for the Ukraine campaign that President Putin had launched on February 24, 2022. Mr. Lavrov maintained a tough posture against the Western nations accusing them of staying quiet during the NATO’s campaign against Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “G-20 was launched in 1999 but it maintained silence even as hundreds and thousands of people were killed in these wars”, said Mr. Lavrov. Mr. Lavrov said, his Western colleagues were “speechless” when they heard about the reported discrimination against Russian culture in Ukraine.

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