US Secretary of State and Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have met and held talks on the sidelines of a meeting of the world’s top diplomats in New Delhi.
Until Thursday, there had been no high-level face-to-face contacts between the US and Russian governments since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022, with Washington firmly backing Kyiv and spearheading international efforts to isolate Russia.
The last time Blinken and Lavrov were in the same room, at a G20 meeting in Bali last July — the latter stormed out, according to Western officials.
However, Russian diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova sought to downplay the significance of the encounter, telling state news agency RIA Novosti that Blinken had initiated it and that it had been fleeting.
Lavrov “spoke to him, standing, as part of the second second session of the G20,” she said. “No talks or real meeting took place.”
Thursday’s G20 meeting drew to a close without a joint statement — the second such meeting of the bloc to fail to reach an accord in as many weeks.
Lavrov told the assembled foreign ministers that Western representatives had derailed the meeting in an effort to scapegoat Russia for their own failings, disrespecting efforts by the Indian hosts to reach agreement on other issues.
“I want to apologize to the Indian presidency and to our colleagues from countries of the global South for the obscene behavior of some Western delegations, which have turned the G20’s agenda into a farce,” Lavrov said, according to Russian news agency TASS.
Discussions over the joint statement faltered on several issues including Russia’s insistence on an investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline last year, Lavrov told reporters through an interpreter.
Russia and Western countries have traded accusations of responsibility for the September explosions.
A statement issued at the conclusion of the G20 meeting showed China had joined Russia in refusing to support the bloc’s demands that Moscow cease hostilities in Ukraine.
Both countries were the only G20 members not to agree to the statement demanding Russia’s “complete and unconditional withdrawal”.
A meeting of G20 finance ministers in Indian city Bengaluru last week had also failed to agree on a common statement after Russia and China sought to water down language on the war.