China’s Wang meets Lavrov in Bali ahead of G20 talks

BALI, Indonesia – Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) met Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (left) in Bali Thursday for talks ahead of a G20 ministerial meeting overshadowed by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The pair were pictured holding a bilateral meeting on the Indonesian resort island as the world’s top economies gather to discuss the most pressing global issues on Friday, with the Ukraine war at the top of the agenda.

Despite criticism, Beijing has upheld friendly ties with Russia as Western nations have sought to isolate President Vladimir Putin’s government from the global financial and diplomatic order over the military assault on its neighbour.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in attendance and is set to hold bilateral talks with Wang on Saturday.

But he will shun a direct meeting with his Russian counterpart even though they are set for their first showdown since the outbreak of war.

Blinken last saw Lavrov in January in Geneva, where the top US diplomat warned Russia of massive consequences if it went ahead and invaded Ukraine, which it did on February 24.

Washington has argued Russia should no longer be a member of the international forum, a position echoed by some Western allies.

It will use the meeting — which is a prelude to a leaders’ summit in November — to lobby allies that have been at odds with its position on Ukraine, such as India, to pull away from Moscow.

But China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for the Kremlin by blasting Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.

Beijing pursues an independent foreign policy towards Russia and both reject interference from what they have called “third parties”.

A meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in February ended with the pair declaring a “new era” of international relations with “no limits” to their relationship.

Xi assured Putin of China’s support for Russian “sovereignty and security” in a phone call last month.

The United States swiftly weighed in, condemning China for “investing in close ties to Russia” despite claiming to be neutral. –AFP