G20 finance leaders still at odds over language on Gaza, Ukraine – sources

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 11:10 AM

By Marcela Ayres and Christian Kraemer

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Finance leaders of the G20 major countries are still discussing how to describe the wars in Ukraine and Gaza in a joint communique, with Russia and mostly Western nations at loggerheads over the language, two G20 sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The tussle, which comes just hours before the scheduled conclusion of the G20 talks, highlight the deep divide among the group’s members over escalating geopolitical tensions that chair Brazil is struggling to mend.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Thursday there was reason to be confident the G20 finance ministers would agree on a communique with a reference to geopolitical risks to economic growth.

But the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors have yet to agree on some parts of the statement, the sources said.

The G7 group of rich Western nations and Japan are backing the idea of referring to the war “on” Ukraine, while Russia wants to describe it as the war “in” Ukraine, said the two sources, one of which is from the Brazilian delegation.

The G7 countries are also backing language describing the war in Gaza as a “humanitarian crisis” with no mention of Israel, the sources said.

Japan told its G20 counterparts on Wednesday that it condemns act of terrorism by Hamas and has deep concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, vice finance minister for international affairs Masato Kanda told reporters.

Brazilian officials hosting the event have tried to focus talks on economic cooperation to tackle issues such as climate change and poverty, but countries including Germany have pushed for a joint statement that mentions wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Lindner insisted there could be no business as usual as there was a war against Ukraine, Hamas “terror” and a humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“All of this cannot leave us cold, all of this must be discussed here,” he told reporters, adding there was reason to be confident there could be a communique. “A draft has been prepared that reflects the request that the geopolitical issues are discussed,” he said.

Brazil’s G20 presidency also aims to craft a statement on international taxation by the group’s July meeting, the country’s finance minister said on Thursday, reiterating a call for solutions to ensure increased tax contributions by the super-rich.

Speaking at the opening of the G20 finance track meeting on taxation in Sao Paulo, Finance Minister Fernando Haddad said that Brazil expects the statement to be “balanced yet ambitious.”

Diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this week and not physically present at the group’s meetings until Wednesday, Haddad attended the venue for the meetings on Thursday after testing negative.

In a virtual address on Wednesday, he had already announced that Brazil would propose debates on a global minimum wealth tax, potentially adding another dimension to international tax cooperation.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres; Writing by Leika Kihara; editing by Gabriel Araujo, Paul Simao and Alistair Bell)